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Back in December 2015, Hideo Kojima announced that he was setting up his own studio, Kojima Productions. He had struck a deal with Sony. It all seemed so easy, but was it? No. But it didn’t hurt that he was Hideo Kojima.
Toward the end of a Famitsu interview, Kojima talked about the difficulties he experienced setting up his own studio.
“It was three years and nine months ago that I struck out on my own,” Kojima told Famitsu. “At that time, I was 53 years old. That’s an age in which you’d retire, right? My family members were also against the idea [of me setting up a new studio]. I was a 53-year-old middle-aged guy, I didn’t have any money or much of anything else, and it was just me saying I was going to make this open-world game.” Granted, Kojima might have had money, but probably not enough to finance the type of projects he was used to making.
According to Kojima, there were doubters that anyone thought the game would be good. “The reason for that is that there hasn’t been a single world-famous game designer who has had success after striking out on their own.”
There have been examples of developers setting up their own studios and being successful; however, there are many examples of devs setting up new studios and going bust.
This also sounds like he’s rewriting history a little bit. When Kojima left Konami, I remember the general consensus seemed to be that people where happy he could go make a new style of game and, considering how he was reportedly treated, there was a desire to see him succeed.
That doesn’t mean setting up his own studio was a cakewalk, especially in Japan, which can often make seemingly easy things complicated.
“Even when I went to the bank, I couldn’t borrow money,” he continued. “They said, ‘We know you’re renowned, but you don’t have any actual results.’ This is the kind of country Japan is.”
It can be quite difficult to get a loan in Japan, especially if you are not working for a large company. Kojima was on his own at this point, so financing his studio so he could get an office lease and hire staff might have been harder than you would think. Plus, making Metal Gear games was expensive and took lots of time. Those games always seem to have done better outside of Japan. All of this might explain the reluctance on the part of this financial institution.
“But then, there was a banker at the biggest bank [in Japan] who was a huge fan of mine, and I got the financing.”
Even though it was hard for him to get loan, he’s still Hideo Kojima, which helps!
To give confidence to the families of the staff he was hiring, Kojima wanted to set up the studio in a nice building. That way, he said, it would look like the company was going to be successful, and husbands and wives of his employees would be less inclined to worry. But usually, whenever he’d find a good building, he’d eventually be asked, “What is Kojima Productions?”
In Japan, Kojima isn’t as famous as someone like Hayao Miyazaki, so it seems like many landlords were unfamiliar with the studio’s previous iteration and his work. But out of those desirable locations, he once again lucked out in finding a fan and was able to move into the studio’s current location.
Corporate Japan insulates employees. So challenges like getting a loan or a lease, which most people in Japan experience when trying to set up their own company, certainly were not what Kojima was accustomed to. But when faced with these challenges, he didn’t give up. He recognized he had opportunities because of his Konami career.
“The reason why I’m who I am now is because of the 30 years I had at Konami,” Kojima told Famitsu. “I am grateful to Konami, and I cannot deny that connection.”
This isn’t the first time Kojima has thanked Konami. It appears that he not only has come to terms with his former employer but also feels that the experience made him who he is.
There’s a limited edition PS4 Pro coming based on Death Stranding, and it’s a very fetching shade of white. The drippy black handprints on the top are a nice touch, but nowhere near as nice as the decision to base the accompanying controller on the game’s Bridge Baby.
The console launches alongside the game on November 8, and is a 1TB version of the PS4 Pro. It’ll be $400.
The controller has a partially-transparent orange casing, letting you see the insides. Sadly there’s no room in there to add a floaty baby, but the execution on a cool concept here is still one of the best for an official controller I’ve seen in years.
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
Hideo Kojima’s upcoming release Death Stranding isn’t playable at the Tokyo Game Show. But you can demo Death Stranding: The Umbrella.
Full disclosure: Even though it’s overcast here today at the Tokyo Game Show, I was not able to test this demo umbrella outside in the rain.
While Death Stranding: The Video Game is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, Death Stranding: The Umbrella is not. Designed for wet weather, it can also be used as on sunny days to help block out the sun’s rays or during snowy weather to fend off the cold. This Death Stranding is multiplatform.
While in its sheath, the title Death Stranding is clearly legible. The all-black cover builds up to some anticipation. Is there a black umbrella inside? Or will Kojima throw us a curveball?
Since I’d had seen the demo version on the Tokyo Game Show floor, so I was not surprised to find that the umbrella itself was black.
One of the weakest parts of Death Stranding: The Umbrella is that when closed, it is not possible to read Death Stranding. I am sure this won’t be a problem when opened.
The handle is made from soft-touch plastic. Considerable development must have gone into this.
Let’s press the button and see how this story unfolds.
Wow! While this was one of Hideo Kojima’s easier to follow endeavors, it proves that he is a master of raingear surprises.
At its core, Death Stranding: The Umbrella is just that, an umbrella. In many ways, we’ve seen this before. You open it. You close it. The umbrella keeps you dry. He’s not departing from the tried and true formula, but this umbrella is well-made with a nice twist when opened.
But, isn’t it bad luck to open umbrellas indoors?
Damn you, Kojima.
Death Stranding The Umbrella is priced at 4,500 yen ($41.61). You can demo it for yourself at this year’s Tokyo Game.
He’s finally done it. After years of talking about Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima finally showed off a full mission’s worth of gameplay during a live stage presentation at Tokyo Game Show this week. It’s as offbeat, meticulously detailed, and intriguing as you’d expect from Kojima, if not more so.
To be released November 8 for PlayStation 4, Death Stranding follows Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) as he makes a coast-to-coast trek across the ruined United Cities of America, creating new “strands” that link divided human beings back together. With him is BB, or “Bridge Baby,” a little fetus in an artificial womb that, among other things, allows him to see BTs, or “Beached Things,” supernatural monsters from other dimensions that are rampaging in the UCA.
The full video of the gameplay demonstration at Tokyo Game Show.
There’s a lot more to it than that, much of it likely involving Geoff Keighley, but that’s the backstory you need to know to get the most out of the presentation, which was over 45 minutes of live gameplay. Sam is given a simple mission: deliver four aid packages from Knot City to Port Knot City. The aid packages contain four supplies that are considered crucial in this world: food, medicine, anti-BT weapons, and “sperm and eggs.”
Before heading out on any mission, you’ll pick out your loadout. This will include all the required aid packages that you’re delivering, plus anything else you want to bring with you on the journey: extra shoes, ropes, weapons, etc. The difference between Sam Bridges and most video game heroes is that while everybody else just disappears all of their possessions into a magical pocket, Sam is visibly loaded up with his burdens. Everything he carries is visibly attached to his character, affecting his weight and mobility.
You can actually choose where on Sam’s body to put all this stuff. You can load it all up onto his back like a pack mule, but you can also put items in pouches hanging off the backpack, strap them to his arms and legs, or have him hand-carry certain pieces. This will affect his speed, yes, but also his balance. Sam’s center of gravity will be shown in a yellow circle underneath him as you shift things around. As you run through the world, if you make hard left or right turns, he’ll go off-kilter if he’s overburdened, and you’ll need to press the L2 and R2 buttons to shift his weight back so he stays upright.
You’re not stuck awkwardly carrying all this stuff at every moment, though. If you’re about to, say, head into a battle, you can put your belongings down temporarily. You might also be able to acquire a Floating Carrier, a cross between an airport luggage cart and a hoverboard that will follow behind you with your big ol’ pile of crap. (If needs be, you can even hop on and ride it yourself.)
All this futuristic technology all around us but the only way that they can transport a small container of food two miles down the road is to have Norman Reedus hand-carry it there. Onward to Port Knot City! First, Sam charts his journey: The game will calculate the direct route to his destination and show him all the topography, and the player can then plot a custom route from waypoint to waypoint to try to avoid the major hazards.
The first obstacle Sam reaches in the video presentation is a river. Again, the HUD is here to give important information, showing the strength of the current in different spots. Blue is easily crossable, yellow is walkable with effort, and red will sweep you off your feet and send you down the river. Kojima walks into it for demonstration purposes, and shows how Sam is blown off course but also loses a package or two, which he has to pick up again.
Leaving the river, Sam pauses to catch his breath (with the Circle button), and also checks in on his Bridge Baby to make sure he’s still doing okay (and soothing him if not). He then pounds a canteen of Monster™ brand energy drink, and hits the old dusty trail again.
It’s not long before Sam comes across another package to add to his burden, a lost piece of musical equipment belonging to a character called the Musician. Fortunately for us, the Musician’s house is just down a cliff and across a small ravine. Sam sticks a climbing anchor into the ground, then rappels down the cliff. He crosses the ravine with his helpful extendable ladder.
Later in the demo, Kojima points out that thanks to the game’s asynchronous multiplayer aspects, you might not even have to use your own ladder for this, since other players can leave their equipment in the world for others to use. He shows how there’s now a climbing rope and a ladder left by other players. You can “Like” these items. Social-media “Likes” seem to be the currency of this world, just as they are in ours.
Sometimes other players will also drop helpful items that you can find in the world and pick up. By pressing the “communication button” while in the game, Sam will shout out something like “Is anybody there?” If items dropped by other players are in the vicinity, they’ll flash to alert you to them. But apparently you can’t just go around picking up every single thing dropped by others. The containers will be damaged when you find them, and you have to use a consumable called “container repair spray” to fix them before you can harvest their resources.
There will also be lots of lockers scattered about the world, some left by other players, some controlled by enemies. These might have extra goodies for you, and you can also use them to stash your own stuff privately if needs be.
As a reward for bringing back the Musician’s hi-fi equipment, you’ll add a new “strand” to the network and further link the world together. More importantly, he gives you a harmonica, which you can play to soothe the BB whilst you sit in the grass on a break. Death Stranding definitely wants you to take that downtime. There are even natural hot springs in the world where you and the Bottled Babbo can recharge your batteries. (Literally—it’s called a “battery hot springs.”)
It’s not all just about slowly walking while holding a bunch of FedEx boxes full of sperm and singing to a baby. When Sam encounters a group of enemies, things become very Metal Gear Solid all of a sudden. Briefly abandoning his precious cargo, Sam goes into stealth mode, sneaking around an enemy camp. He can use an item, which is also called a Strand, to “bind human enemies from behind and parry attacks at close quarters.” This, the description says, is a “non-lethal anti-personnel weapon.” In fact, all the weapons we see in the demo are specifically called out as being non-lethal.
Sam sneaks up on and incapacitates one enemy before Kojima allows him to be caught, thus turning the enemy camp into a full-on battle scene. Now he switches to the Bola Gun, which shoots out a Strand tied to two balls to tie up enemies from a distance. The sight shows you the horizontal line that the bola will follow, so you can aim with precision. Charging the gun up will extend the length of the strand and the range of the shot. You can also punch and kick enemies, or even throw your luggage at them.
After hacking into an enemy locker and finding an exoskeleton suit that lets Sam move faster and jump higher, he ditches the battle, using the suit to jump over a ravine that he would ordinarily have had to cross using a ladder as before.
As Sam nears Port Knot City, the sky goes dark and it begins to rain. Yep, it’s a BT, a big scary gross monster. Now we’re in a boss battle. Sam can fire the Bola Gun at the BT, but Kojima quickly opts for the Hematic Grenade. If you know your Latin, you’re probably imagining what’s in this grenade, and you’re right—it’s blood. If you don’t have a “blood bag” in your arsenal, it’ll use Sam’s blood.
Why does human blood kill the BTs? Who knows, although Death Stranding will surely explain all of this in a 23-minute cutscene two months from now. If you run out of equipment during the battle, you can call for help from other online players, who can respond by giving you more weaponry. Winning the battle causes Sam to receive 100 “Likes” from the BB. Of course.
Well, we finally have an idea of how Death Stranding plays. It looks good! Almost like a Breath of the Wild style reworking of Kojima’s signature concepts. I’m sure it’ll make us all ashamed of our words and deeds this November.
I don’t even have to play Death Stranding in order to review it. All I need is the 39 minutes’ worth of trailers released thus far, my hideous enthusiasm, and my terrible imagination. Allow me to utilize all three in this video presentation, a “pre-review” of Death Stranding.
What could possibly qualify me to review Death Stranding three months before its release, at a time when no person who is free to speak publicly about the game’s deeper details has played it? Well, for starters, I own morethantwo military-spec fashion accessories. Furthermore, a tweet I made about a “Tactical Baby Gear” papoose got retweeted more than 300 times. That’s practically viral!
If that’s not enough, I also buy my eyeglasses from the same shop where Hideo Kojima buys his. In fact, it was Hideo Kojima who first told me the location of this shop. One might say, therefore, that we have similar worldviews.
“Where do you buy your glasses?” was actually the first question I asked Hideo Kojima when I sat down to talk to him for three hours 16 years ago. For a full hour of that time, we discussed literature and film. I asked him if he’d read Kobo Abe, and he said no. Fourteen years later, he’d reference a specific play of Kobo Abe’s as a thematic inspiration for Death Stranding. That’s almost a connection! It’s too bad I can’t prove it with 17-year-old audio recording excerpts from my first sit-down with Kojima.
(Or can I? Watch the video to find out!)
In summary: There’s a chance my head will explode in an art-appreciating paroxysm of joy while playing Death Stranding. It would be difficult for even me to compose a thoughtful critique of Death Stranding in such a decapitated scenario. Therefore, I figured I’d jump the gun and compose this video as a sort of last will and testament.
If you reach the end of this post and are considering typing a comment about how I should also provide my thoughts on Death Stranding in written prose in addition to the above-embedded profoundly bizarre videography: buddy, I’ve got more bad news for you than would fill a phone book. You’re just gonna have to like, comment, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. I promise you might love it.
Earlier this week, Sony announced the Death Stranding release date via a nearly day-long Twitch stream that mostly just showed handprints appearing on a black screen. The reasons why fans would watch this is obvious: Anticipation is exciting, and infectious. The reasons why it is encouraged by publishers is also obvious. Marketing on the internet has always sought to use fan enthusiasm to some corporate benefit, and anticipation is often the easiest way to do that. Countdown clocks, trailers, alternate-reality games and puzzles are all ways to excite fans and get them talking about a game.
Twitch has become so central to video games that publishers have made it a vital part of their marketing efforts. Twitch streams can be watched in places and times where games aren’t an option; they can also be watched as games are played. It’s a locus of attention that’s irresistible to a company with games to sell, which then makes it beneficial for these companies to find ways to get fans to spend even more time on Twitch. They don’t even have to engage with a game that’s out now. Which is how we get to DeathStranding.
The Death Stranding effort was confusing, as a lot of Kojima hype tends to be. The stream was mostly a black image, with a few outlines of handprints and eerie music. At noon, the full video was released, a nearly nine-minute trailer for Death Stranding. The plan seems to have worked, and the Death Stranding trailer racked up nearly five million views in a day’s time.
There was no real reason to watch the livestream—no mystery to solve, no real audience participation beyond showing up. What’s more, anyone who is online enough to watch a stream is also arguably online enough to know when the stream’s end result is achieved without bothering to tune in. The stream recalls another absurd livestream marketing moment, when HBO decided to reveal the premiere date for Game of Thrones’ seventh season by hiding it in a block of ice, which would eventually melt and show the world a date. A date fans would’ve eventually learned anyway, and posted about anyway.
Twitch is already something of a closed loop, integrated into the machines we play games on, so we can stream games and watch games that are streamed. But publishers have increasingly made an effort to control the contours of that loop, using their resources to tip the odds in their favor.
If you watched the Borderlands 3 reveal stream on Twitch last month, you had the chance to win in-game loot. Last fall, watching affiliated streamers on Twitch for an hour could have netted you early access to Black Ops 4’s Blackout beta. Rocket League fans can earn exclusive customization rewards by linking their accounts and watching streams. Those rewards are offered through the Twitch Drops program, which has also been integrated by other publishers and developers. When The Division 2’s first raid went live earlier this month, fans who watched select streamers run the raid could earn items in the game. In the Twitch attention economy, publishers have vast capital that no one else does: information on highly anticipated games to disseminate, and plenty of door prizes for players of games that are out.
As big-budget games move away from static, discrete products towards a “games as a service” model, attention has become a scarce resource. There are only so many games one person can pay attention to at a time—and when said games are persistent affairs, so many future games that can be anticipated. Thus we have hype as a service, and all the things publishers will try in order to keep their audience fixated on an upcoming game, in the hopes that long-term anticipation might translate to long-term interest once that game is out. And what better place to see that unfold than on Twitch—the best place to watch and wait for games.
We now know when the highly anticipated Death Stranding comes out and what it’s about (kind of), which ends some of the mystery around this absurd and fascinating-looking game. But not all of the mystery has been unraveled yet, so we can all still make jokes about it.
After Kojima left Konami in 2015, people wondered what he’d do next. The answer, we all soon learned, was Death Stranding. Until now, most of the trailers left us with more questions than answers. Now we know: it comes out on November 8th of this year, somehow, and it’s about a nation divided by… something, that main character Samuel Bridges (played by Norman Reedus) is trying to bridge. Also, the enemies are called Homo Demons (representation is so important). Yesterday’s trailer shows off more gameplay and way more details about the plot, although the whole thing remains enigmatic and kinda bonkers.
The internet never saw anything enigmatic and kinda bonkers that couldn’t be joked about. The jokes started immediately, and I hope they do not stop before November.
I’m along for the ride on Death Stranding. It will probably make me groan as much as it truly amazes me, but I can’t help but respect a project that is so openly horny for Mads Mikkelsen, and which also has a character named “Die-Hardman.” It’s like Kojima reached into my brain and made the game I was dreaming of.
This week on Kotaku Splitscreen, how could we not dive into the delicious insanity of yesterday’s nine-minute Death Stranding trailer?
First we talk about some video games we’re playing, from Dark Souls 3 to Observation, then dive into news of the week (29:00) including Death Stranding’s ridiculous new trailer (and 2019 release date!), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and EA Play. We hear from a listener who does game analytics for a major video game company, then we get into off-topic talk on Veep, Educated, Fleabag, 24, 24, and 24 (1:04:54).
Here’s the trailer, in case you missed it:
And here’s an excerpt from the pod:
Jason: …What did you guys think of that batshit nine-minute trailer, in which a guy takes off a mask to reveal another mask?
Maddy: It ruled. It ruled.
Kirk: It was a very good video game trailer.
Maddy: I think this is the first trailer where I started to be like, OK, I think I can understand some of the threads of this wacky sci-fi universe that this game is going to entail. There’s some sort of traveling between dimensions, babies are involved, and there’s a grid laid across a huge area that is also involved in traveling between dimensions. More of those plot points, if we can call them plot points, are introduced here, and also the idea of Homo Demons as antagonists, whatever the fuck that is. It’s also probably the closest to an actual story trailer for this game that we’ve gotten so far—it’s not just a series of bizarre images. But don’t worry, it’s also still simultaneously a series of bizarre images… And there’s some actual gameplay footage. We’ve seen a little bit of that, characters running around, in the sense that they’ll be able to climb, and have a backpack and stuff like that.
Jason: They’ll have a backpack!
Maddy: Now we know they can hit each other with briefcases. That’s part of it too. And also people can climb through a swamp and be a skeleton. I dunno. It’s exciting. It’s great. The game looks good and weird.
Kirk: I thought this trailer was a reminder of how unimaginative a lot of video game trailers are, or just a little of video games are. It’s something Kojima does well—I think he serves a useful function in the creative space of the industry, because I know there are a lot of creative people out there, people have a lot of wild ideas, but there’s no one else showing ideas like that. You can watch any three seconds of that trailer and walk around thinking, ‘What the fuck was that? That was the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time.’ And that’s really cool, to just be in the imagination space of this total weirdo, whose whole goal is almost to come up with the most bizarre things. And then there’s the question of will this tie together into something that makes sense?
Maddy: Probably not!
Jason: There’s a maybe 0.1% chance that this game makes sense. I think it could be cool and fun and good, but the chances of it making it sense—
Maddy: I’ve been known to like games that don’t make sense, so that’s fine by me.
Kirk: I guess when I say ‘make sense,’ I don’t even mean you walk away with a complete sense of what happened. I just mean it ties together in a story that moves from point A to point D and ends. I think it’ll do that; most of his games do that. And it doesn’t have the baggage of the Metal Gear universe, so it’s a whole universe, which is nice, to play the first game in a universe that maybe— I’m assuming this won’t be a standalone. It’d be kinda nice if it were, and if it just began and ended and he went and made something else instead of establishing a thousand narrative threads that are then going to go on for the next two decades over all these games. I sort of would like it if it ended. I did get from the trailer a sense of it as a video game—there were stealth elements, there was shooting, there was sneaking around in the tall grass.
Maddy: There was building. This is going to be the next Fortnite.
Jason: Don’t you play as a postman who’s carrying things around, babies and boxes or something?
Jason: So that’s what it’ll be. It’ll be a delivery simulator.
Kirk: I like that there’s a character named Die-Hardman.
For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.
Death Stranding, the bizarre next game from Metal Gear Solid director Hideo Kojima, will hit PlayStation 4 on November 8, 2019, publisher Sony said today.
In a strange new trailer that ostensibly contains gameplay but makes very little sense—as you might expect based on previous looks at Death Stranding—Sony revealed the news that Kojima’s next game will be out sooner than many people might have expected. You can watch the nine-minute bonanza right here:
What does this mean for Sony’s other remaining announced PlayStation 4 games? Well, The Last of Us 2 was planned for a 2019 release but I recently heard from a person familiar with goings-on at Sony that it’s been delayed to early 2020, likely February. And Ghost of Tsushima will follow in the next few months, with the PlayStation 5 likely launching next fall.