Konami’s suffered a lot of bad press over the last few years thanks to its shift to mobile gaming and its rocky split with respected game designer Hideo Kojima. It’s no secret that the company has been undergoing difficult times, with many of its top designers, composers, and developers leaving for other jobs. But a report from Nikkei (translated by Kotaku) reveals an extra nail in the coffin of public respect for Konami. The company uses draconian measures to keep its employees in line, where workers are treated like numbers in a system and where personal achievement and autonomy essentially don’t exist.
According to Nikkei’s report, Konami workers have their lunch breaks monitored with time cards. Employees who are deemed to be spending too much time on break are named and shamed in corporate emails. There are cameras all over the offices that aren’t for security, but rather are there to monitor employees’ movements.
Developers who aren’t seen as useful are reassigned to punishment-style roles, such as janitors or security guards. That’s not just the low-level workers – high-profile developers who have worked on some of the company’s biggest titles are also at risk.
There was also an incident where a former employee announced in a Facebook post that he was leaving Konami for another job. Konami monitored the post and anybody who gave it a like was reassigned to a punishment job.
Meanwhile, Kojima Productions, the subsidiary of Konami that used to be led by Hideo Kojima, has been renamed “Number 8 Production Department.” Members of this department don’t have access to the internet. All of their computers are connected to the local network only and can’t do anything more than send internal messages. The idea of this is to stop the workers from getting distracted.
Lastly, Konami employees are not given permanent email addresses – instead, they are given a random string of numbers and letters every few months. That’s to stop them from being headhunted, apparently. It’s hard to contact somebody when their email address is constantly changing. (Staff who have to deal with people outside the company are the exception here.)
According to Nikkei’s report, this draconian behaviour started around 2010, when Konami started switching its focus to mobile gaming. The company realised that mobile games could bring in more revenue for less effort. Why they thought treating their employees like prisoners would be a good idea isn’t entirely clear, but it’s likely to be a bad move. Corporate cultures that breed employee distrust and resentment have been shown to be ineffective. It doesn’t help productivity and leads to the company losing its talented workers.