Utterly huge Japanese videogame publisher
, responsible for many popular arcade games
throughout the 1980's and 1990's, as well as ports of these games to several home console formats, and hundreds of original console games. Founded by Kagemasa Kozuki
in 1969. In the Eighties
, they had an exclusivity deal
that was pivotal in the success of the NES
. Many classics such as Castlevania
, Metal Gear
, and Gradius
(and their offshoots) could not be found on any other system (at least until the legality
of this arrangement was called into question).
At the start of the Nineties, they hit on a lucrative arcade gimmick: three- and four-player stand-up cabinets, often based around licensed properties (including Sunset Riders, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). These were popular with arcade operators and players... for a while. The monster success of Capcom's Street Fighter 2 games, and the emergence of 3D games (pioneered by Sega with the Virtua range, with Namco and eventually Konami themselves joining the fray) led to them looking for new ideas. Some old series were wound up, and free from Nintendo's clutches, they were able to create games on multiple platforms. Hideo Kojima's Snatcher, Pop'n Twinbee, Contra 3, and the Tiny Toons platformers were some of the highlights of their 16-bit era offerings.
By the mid-Nineties, a number of the core staff who had created most of their sprite-based legacy had defected to form Treasure (the cult developers behind Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy and Radiant Silvergun). In the arcades, they hit upon another new gimmick - the use of unconventional control methods. Most of their arcade operation today revolves around music games such as Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution.
Every new machine they show seems to revolve around a new musical instrument or have a soundtrack by new artists (different ones for each territory, of course). Their most 'traditional' coinop offering at present is the shooter Silent Scope, and they still put together the occasional racing game.
Outside the arcade, they have had a third generation of successes on the Playstation, with Silent Hill, Winning Eleven (known as International Superstar Soccer outside Japan), and of course, the revival of their NES espionage series, Metal Gear Solid. They are poised to exploit their back-catalogue to bring new games to the Game Boy Advance.
It needs to be stressed that Konami are now a huge player in the console world. They can easily release 10 or more games for a single format in a matter of months, and they cater for almost all formats out there. They are the only Japanese developer commited to the Microsoft Xbox (because Microsoft gave them a ton of money, and they cannot possibly make a loss, no matter how badly the Xbox bombs in Japan). The Xbox will not be getting any exclusive games from them however. (MS are in for a nasty surprise if they try strong-arm tactics in the console market ... Nintendo have done everything 10 years ago.)
Although nothing is certain in the fast-moving world of games, it can be safely predicted that gamers will be hearing the Konami jingle (and entering the Konami code) for years to come.