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Konami still insists that Hideo Kojima works there, despite more reports to the contrary

After months of heated rumors, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has finally left Konami. That is according to a recent report published in The New Yorker. Konami, on the other hand, has refuted the report, and claims that Kojima is still employed there, and is merely “on vacation” for the time being.

Simon Parkin, who wrote the New Yorker story, afterwards tweeted an image supposedly from Kojima’s farewell party on Oct. 9, provided to him by “a source at Konami.”

Kotaku pressed Konami about Kojima’s departure and the supposed farewell party, but with no success. Komani spokespeople held that “currently, Kojima and the development team are finished developing Metal Gear Solid V and are taking along time off from work.” As for the party, the official word is that Konami is “not sure what kind of thing this was.” To be fair, it could have been some sort of production wrap celebration, or a vacation send-off.

Related: Hideo Kojima’s name removed from box art for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Months of mounting evidence from a variety of sources, however, corroborates the story that Kojima’s contract with Konami will expire in December of this year, at which point his non-compete clause will expire as well, freeing him up to found or join a new studio and get back to making overblown, cinematic masterpieces. Konami, on the other hand, seems to be reducing the scope of its vision. In May the publisher’s new president told Japanese paper Nikkei that “mobile is where the future of gaming lies.” Then in August Konami announced that it is developing pachinko machines based on its popular franchises like Silent Hill and Castlevania. The shift toward casual and mobile games is indicative of larger trends in the Japanese gaming industry, according to several developers who spoke with Parkin for The New Yorker.

“We’ve seen the end of the console-game market in Japan,” said Ryan Payton, who worked for Konami between 2005 and 2008. “Even by the time Metal Gear Solid IV shipped, in 2008, I felt like our team was one of just a handful of Japan-based developers who were still fighting to produce blockbuster games.” Blockbuster releases in the west from Japan have been exceptions, meaning that to Japanese industry insiders, Konami’s dismantling of Kojima Productions was not terribly surprising.