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Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes could herald a new way of making games

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Check out our review of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Hideo Kojima and Konami have been especially cryptic on what exactly the next Metal Gear title, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, is. Since debuting last summer, all the legendarily goofy designer has said is that it’s a more open take on the Metal Gear Solid brand of stealth and political drama, built on the Fox Engine and “targeted” for current consoles. Is it a full sequel, though? What’s Ground Zeroes’ relationship to The Phantom Pain, the cryptic trailer shown at the Spike Video Game Awards that was barely masked as a Kojima production? Are they separate games and is one of them an official Metal Gear Solid 5? This week, while speaking about the future of the video game business, Kojima gave a hint that Ground Zeroes may be something different altogether – it could be a pilot that precedes ahead of Metal Gear Solid 5.

“A very deep, 20-30 hour game [for next-gen consoles] might need a bigger team and take three or four years,” Kojima told Edge Magazine, “I think there’s a different way of tackling this problem: something similar to a TV series, where you can use pilot episodes to test the waters before you jump completely into the project.”

“It can be distributed via download channels, so the player can try it out before production continues. Something like that would take that long to create, maybe a year, and if it’s successful, you can continue.”

Kojima’s idea sounds superficially similar to two distribution methods that game makers have been employing for years and years now: Demos and Episodic games. But what Kojima is suggesting is actually significantly different and could, in a fully downloadable environment, make for an economical method of game development. While this would certainly help ease the financial burden for the major publishers, it could also create a new avenue for mid-sized developers to try out their projects with minimized risks. 

Demos, for example, are monumentally expensive and time consuming to make, even when they aren’t played by the average consumer. During Digital Trends’ preview of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, associate producer Sylvain Trottier explained why there was no playable demo of the game that day. “Time spent making a demo is time spent not making the game,” said Trottier. Since the full game is already in development with a budget, the demo is an extra cost made in the hopes of selling more copies of the game. Kojima’s model would allow for a smaller initial investment in a game that can still generate revenue on its own, with the promise of building an audience for the eventual larger game.

Even the Episodic model needs a huge initial investment on the part of a developer. Telltale Games, for instance, has to develop all episodes of games like The Walking Dead concurrently so they release in a timely fashion and function together from a technical standpoint. The pilot program would allow a game to be finished and out with no pressure to devote other resources to development until it’s time to move forward.

Kojima has already said that Ground Zeroes is a game in flux in its current form. With close to a year of development behind it already, Kojima could even have this possible pilot ready for launch alongside PlayStation 4.