Now if you feel like all this harping on reviews reeks of tunnel vision – especially given that they’re reviews from just one site, which may or may not have a bias despite it being an aggregator site – fear not: there’s plenty of non-review-based evidence that MGR is an extremely significant Metal Gear game, not just to players but also to industry bigwigs, including everyone from Platinum Games to Kojima Productions to Konami to Hideo Kojima himself.
The most obvious piece of non-review evidence is the sales.
That link provides a nice side-by-side comparison of MGR with other Metal Gear games, main and spinoff alike. MGR vastly outsells all spinoffs, including Portable Ops because the actual total sales for MGR are 1.11 million (PS3) + 0.34 million (Xbox). Even the 1.11 million PS3 outsells Portable Ops when you factor in years on the market: 1.18 million in 8 years (or 7 if we’re averaging) versus 1.11 million in 1 year… You do the math.
Forget spinoffs, MGR even looks impressive next to Peace Walker:
1.98 million (PSP) + 0.15 million (HD PW) + 0.20 million (Legacy Collection) + 0.10 million (HD Collection) units in 4 years = 0.61 million units per year.
Metal Gear Rising:
1.11 million (PS3) + 0.34 million (Xbox) in 1 year = 1.45 million units per year
To be fair, most of PW’s (and PO’s) sales came within 1-2 years of release, and most of MGR’s sales will too, but even with the tapering off, I absolutely expect to see MGR sell more than Peace Walker has by the time it’s been out on the market as long. Hell, it might already have outsold Peace Walker depending on the number of PC purchases. Of course this is just one sales chart from one source, and some of the numbers may be questionable, but unless you can find me any numbers that differ vastly from what’s up there, I’m pretty confident in asserting that MGR sold well even compared to main series MG games, let alone spinoffs.(4)
The War Economy
Sales aside, consider the staggering amount of promotion for “just a spinoff”.
In addition to the usual trailers, there was also a series of live-action trailers and even a half-assed attempt at viral marketing with the whole “input these codes on the official site to see extra top-secret stuff” like Armstrong’s speech and a crayon drawing of Jack the Ripper.(5) Not to mention the special Kojima-produced trailer. Now ask yourself if any of the other spinoffs got even half – even a tenth – that much promotional material. The answer is, of course, no. And let’s not forget that #mgrcontest, either. If MGR was as insignificant and ignored as the other spinoffs, that contest would never have been implemented.
Next, realize that the amount of merchandise for MGR is unprecedented even for a main series game (yes, even cash cow Peace Walker – only MGSV might have MGR beat for merch), let alone a spinoff. Most main series games get the usual figures, soundtrack, art book, and a T-shirt or three, plus the throwaway merch like stickers and pins. The spinoff games are lucky to get even two things off that list. Yet spinoff game MGR not only has every single thing on that list (and its apparel lineup puts even Uniqlo’s glut of Peace Walker merch to shame), but in fact goes waaaaaay beyond the vanilla merch to have everything from lava lamps to letter openers to dog tags (you’d think dog tags would be vanilla merch for Metal Gear but surprisingly few of the games have unique dog tag merch) to USB flash drives to even fucking POP ROCKS. And the kicker? THAT’S JUST THE OFFICIALLY LICENSED MERCH, which doesn’t take into account any of the unofficially (and perhaps illegally) produced merch using the MGR IP (I know it exists because I’ve seen a bunch of it myself).(6)
In case you still can’t connect the dots, consider that Konami struggled badly during the 2012-2013 fiscal year that ended March 2013.
MGR came out February 2013. I don’t think anyone at Konami was stupid enough to believe one game out for a month could save them for that year, no matter how popular it was. Instead, they hoped it would keep them afloat for the next year (2013-2014) until MGSV came along. That’s why they went all-out with promo and merchandising for “just a spinoff” – because MGR was no ordinary spinoff. Konami gambled the bulk of their 2013-2014 bottom line on MGR, and they couldn’t afford to do that if MGR were just another AC!D or Portable Ops. Konami, KojiPro, and Platinum Games collaborated to ensure that MGR would have the popularity and significance of a main series Metal Gear game, because Konami simply couldn’t afford to release anything less as the sole offering from their biggest moneymaking IP in a year that was supposed to recoup the heavy losses of the previous year.
MGR IS A CASH COW, with all the attendant hype (both official and unofficial) and subsequent popularity, which means it is anything BUT an inconsequential spinoff that no one cares about. It has the panache, popularity, and industry impact of a main series Metal Gear game because everyone who had a stake in the game (including Kojima himself, whom I’ll get to in a moment) knew it needed to, and therefore pulled out all the stops to ensure it would. And they clearly succeeded (at least based on the Metacritic and VGChartz numbers).
As mentioned, this success came with no less than the blessings of (and even a little help from) Hideo Kojima himself. But wait, doesn’t Kojima hate MGR? Hasn’t he been making passive-aggressive jabs at its story in nearly every interview he’s had about it? Well yes, Kojima does hate everything about MGR from a creative storytelling standpoint. But he loves everything about MGR from a financial standpoint! From his Spong interview:
“It’s very possible that some time in the future after Ground Zeroes is out, I may be called up by management who will say, ‘Kojima! What are you doing? Ground Zeroes isn’t selling! What have you done?’ And at that point I’ll [hopefully be able to] say, ‘Don’t worry! [Metal Gear] Rising is selling well!”
“As far as Rising 2 is concerned, I really do have that in my mind, and I want to make it, and if we do make it it would definitely be with Platinum. I don’t think anyone else could do it. And of course, my ulterior motive is that if Rising 2 came out, then guaranteed it would sell! Which means that I wouldn’t have to worry about that with Ground Zeroes. I can just do whatever I want [Laughs]!”
He’s obviously (mostly) joking about concern over Ground Zeroes‘ sales, but he’s dead serious about using the Rising series as a cash cow to get Konami off his back. As you well know, Kojima has wanted to separate his creative endeavors from his fiscal responsibilities for years; he knows Rising would give him the chance to do it because he recognizes that MGR, unlike every previous Metal Gear spinoff, is the first Kojima-free Metal Gear game that has actually managed to make the same financial and social impact as a Hideo Kojima Metal Gear game.
Nothing short of banking – literally! – on MGR’s popularity would induce him to swallow his loathing for this travesty long enough to not only make a trailer for the game but even include it in a DLC for one of his own games. Yes, the Jamais Vu DLC is non-canon and Xbox-only [or was!], but it still serves as a reminder of MGR’s existence, and it is still a clear instance of Kojima allowing his own work to be tainted by association with MGR for the sake of keeping the latter on everyone’s radar.(7)
(4) The game’s sales are mostly expected considering that Platinum Games has a devout following. A crossover project with Kojima Productions sounds like a dream come true for many people in both camps. If Platinum Games wouldn’t have been involved, the sales would have been a fraction of the amount, and reflected the game’s importance in terms of Metal Gear fandom, not combined fandom.
(5) These videos are the definition of low-budget and rushed. Everything about Revengeance was meant to have “impact” without a big budget or high quality. If other Metal Gear games received this same level of promotion, there would be backlash.
(6) I had no idea the merchandising was that bad, I admit. It’s hilarious! At the same time, perhaps most Metal Gear games don’t have that level of selling out because they have a sense of dignity. Kojima obviously didn’t care what kind of garbage came out with the Revengeance label on it, and needed to make up for the failure of the initial iteration of the game, which was a huge waste of money.
(7) Kojima shoehorned Raiden into MGS3 by creating “Raikov”, who was a sex slave who got brutally and sadistically used by Volgin. Kojima loves to remind fans about Raiden and use him as the butt of jokes, and his role in Ground Zeroes was hardly respectable either. An alien from another dimension who kills Snatchers? It’s a way of distancing Rising by coming up with an ‘alternate dimension’ (ie. “parallel story”) excuse in Ground Zeroes.