Remember that time in your life when you totally dedicated yourself to something for over a decade and brought it all kinds of glory and attention? Then one day, you suddenly find yourself out of style and are sidestepped for the latest trend. While others thrive on your success, you are put to work on hollow empty shells which barely scrape the heels of the masterpieces you've created. That was the fate of ex-Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi, who just recently left Konami.
Igarashi has spoken out about his unsurprising departure at GDC with Polygon. Since his work on legendary titles like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, the man did wonders for bringing the iconic series into the modern age and allowed it to bloom on the PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS.
Come the HD generation, Konami found it both cheaper to outsource the game to a Western studio and far more lucrative to reboot it with a God of War mentality and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's name attached instead.
Unfortunately, Igarashi was quickly put to work on social games, and his development style and theories proved far too complicated for the casual market. Konami's frequent cancellations of his projects finally led him to quit.
"The more hardcore the game… the less suitable it is for the casual market," Igarashi told Polygon at GDC.
"Unfortunately, I'm good at making core experiences, so it was two years of making a game that leaned too 'hardcore' for the social market. So it was canceled. Then I'd try again and be canceled. And again and be canceled."
Apart from his frequent cancellations, he also claimed to be frustrated by being unable to answer the cries of his fans who wanted a new Castlevania more akin to the 2D "Metroidvania" style. Konami's new direction simply would not allow it. Igarashi blames himself for not being able to make the leap into social gaming to grant his fans what they wanted.
"There was a little frustration on my part trying to make that leap. I think a lot of creators are unable to make that leap. I couldn't. I was frustrated with myself, but it's kind of disappointing that during this time, the fans were constantly saying 'We want more core 2D Metroidvania experiences' and I was, of course, in trying this new foray, unable to appease them to make them happy as well. I couldn't make the transition but I also couldn't continue to make the games I wanted to make. "
Despite the shrill emotions of any person leaving the safety net of a Japanese corporation, Igarashi felt emboldened by his peers and coworkers who supported his departure, many of whom asked him for a job once he got his own studio up and running.
"I was afraid [to leave]. I had the safety blanket of a large corporation. In Japan, it's lifetime employment, so to leave that comfort zone and strike out on your own, there's a lot of risk and fear involved…
Am I really a big enough name [to go independent]? Is there going to be the support there that I need?"
Fortunately, the indie market is flooded with fans who can't get enough of the style of games Igarashi is known for. "Metroidvania" is all the rage on the indie scene, and he is half creator of that silly moniker after all. However, he also has been upset with himself for never being able to make a great 3D game, which is a little troublesome because I always was fond Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
Since he just quit Konami just a few short days ago, he has no concrete plans of joining a new publisher or turning to crowdfunding to make a new game. He would most like to return to work with other ex-Castlevania creative minds who have since gone their own ways, but most importantly, he just wants his fans to play his games.
"I'm a simple man with simple needs. The process of making something, releasing it, having fans be happy with what you've created, [that's what I want]. The last two years, I haven't been able to finish that process for a variety of reasons. If I can do that, that would make me very happy. That is what I want to do with my studio: release games that make people happy."
Crowdfunding is an obvious choice for Igarashi with the right financial advisors and marketers. When your resume clearly states Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and fourteen other games in the series, you most likely will inspire the confidence needed to raise the funds amongst gamers. If you can't, then this is a cruel world indeed.
Best of luck to Koji Igarashi breaking into the indie market or wherever he ends up. I'll be there to support you when the time comes.