The Slippery Slope
And this is where things get serious. This is the real reason MGR matters. Honestly, MGR could outsell MGS2 and I still wouldn’t give a flying fuck if it weren’t for the fact that MGR’s success is inextricably linked to Kojima’s most egregious act of capitulation in Metal Gear history, both in terms of how much he genuinely wished for said success and how complicit he was in bringing it about.
You wrote and I agree that Kojima technically started “selling out” as early as MGS3, when he first gave into the demand for more Metal Gear after he was all set to wash his hands of it. However, as we both know, at the time he was still optimistic that MGS3 would be his last, and so he managed to hold back his bitterness enough to maintain his creative integrity throughout the game. If I had to put numbers to it, I’d say MGS3 was 10-20% sellout, 80-90% integrity intact. Then came MGS4, which was at least equal parts sellout and integrity, if not slightly heavier on the sellout. Peace Walker was even more of a shameless cash grab than MGS4(8) – Kojima couldn’t even bother to be bitter about the situation anymore, and so he decided to have fun with it instead.
But even the lowliest prostitute has a part of her soul she will not sell at any price, and so it was with Peace Walker: Kojima knows Hero Big Boss sells better than Villain Big Boss (hence his half-joking concern over GZ’s sales), but he also knows that Villain Big Boss is much truer to his original creative vision, and so he insisted on having cash cow Peace Walker choose integrity over profit on just the one matter of foreshadowing Big Boss’s descent into villainy. 10-20% integrity to 80-90% sellout though it may be, Peace Walker’s 10-20% integrity proved that Kojima still balked at the idea of a Metal Gear golden goose that didn’t have even a hint of his signature values and themes(9). Everyone knew Portable Ops and the AC!Ds would never be golden geese, so Kojima was cool with them being spinoffs utterly devoid of his ideas. As long as the Metal Gear games with a major audience spoke his words somewhere at some point, the ones without could say whatever the hell they wanted at all times. In fact, I’ll bet he was even starting to believe that a Metal Gear game couldn’t be financially successful without his touch.
But now we have MGR, as much a golden goose as Peace Walker, yet as devoid of Kojima’s creative intent as Portable Ops and the AC!Ds (and in an arguably much more blatant and insulting way than any of those spinoffs ever managed). MGR has a major audience, but everything it says is so perfectly antithetical to Kojima’s ideas as to almost make the game a satire of MGS (especially MGS2). And Kojima has given it his blessing, praising and promoting the game as much as he can stand to do so. Even his jabs at the game are carefully tailored to avoid potentially damaging its success. This isn’t 10% or even 1% or even 0.1% integrity – this is 0% integrity, 100% sellout. Kojima has finally accepted that a Metal Gear game can be successful without passing on any of his messages.
And that’s terrible, because up until this point, no matter how bitter Kojima was about having to make another Metal Gear, no matter how much he wished he could just hand the reigns of Konami’s cash cow to someone else, he always insisted that those reigns be handed over to a kindred spirit or not at all (which is why he never managed to hand them over). He refused to let Konami profit without his preaching, probably because he figured it couldn’t be done.(10) MGR changed all that. Now Kojima’s okay with letting Konami have the money without the message, because now he knows it can be done. For the first time, a Kojima-free Metal Gear game has managed to be just as big, just as popular, just as lucrative as a Hideo Kojima Metal Gear game. His wish has finally come true, if not exactly as he envisioned it would.
(8) MGS4 and Peace Walker were “shameless cash grabs”? Are you serious? Kojima fell into a morbid depression while making MGS4. He hated his life and wanted to quit. Nothing about MGS4 is a “cash grab”. You don’t seem to know what those words mean.
(9) 10 – 20% is absurd. To suggest that Peace Walker lacks themes, integrity, or values of the series. It actually discredits your own authority on the matter when discussing Revengeance.
(10) Kojima figured Metal Gear can’t be profitable without his preaching? Do you realize how backwards that is? People want his name on the box, they hate his messages. His messages alienate and confuse millions of potential fans, who now sit back and joke about how convoluted and preachy the story is. MGS could be Call of Duty on steroids if only Kojima would be willing to make epic cool stories that don’t challenge people’s minds; his definition of “art” that’s like a chair you can’t sit on.