Konami’s Retirement of Fox Engine Opens Old Wounds

Goodbye Fox Engine, Hello Unreal Engine 5

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At one point considered a revolutionary vehicle for next-gen games, the Fox Engine will soon be no more. Konami has announced plans to shift future development of games from its famed in-house engine to the more widely adopted Unreal Engine 5, beginning next year with PES 2022. The reasoning Konami provided, according to GearNuke, is that maintaining technical touch-ups would be ‘too expensive’ to justify the continued usage of aging software. It seems that the company wants a fresh start for their most valuable sports franchise, while simultaneously shaking the shadow of its most famous ex-employee. Thus, as the passing of all great software calls for, a post-mortem is due.

For anyone unaware of its tragic tale, The Fox Engine was developed by Hideo Kojima and his internal team at Konami, Kojima Productions (not to be confused with his current independent studio) over the course of several years. They strived to make “the best engine in the world,” envisioning their efforts as a showcase for Kojima’s last hurrah before departing the Metal Gear franchise, along with serving as a foundation for future games across Konami’s numerous flagship franchises. Their work paid off — Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain garnered critical acclaim for its then-revolutionary capabilities, and seemed to be a promising sign for the engine’s future. However, it hit its first speed bump after Kojima’s infamous firing from the company he’d helped carry for 30 years ousted him just before The Phantom Pain was released. Fox Engine soon bore the unfortunate burden of Metal Gear‘s lowest moments, including the poorly received Metal Gear Survive and an MGS3 remake trapped entirely within Japanese Pachinko machines.

Putting aside shortcomings tied to Metal Gear, the Fox Engine’s misery was only just beginning. Another Kojima project, 2014’s nightmare-inducing P.T. (an elaborate horror-teaser for the secret new Silent Hill title) was axed by Konami, leaving more fans furious and another Fox Engine project unceremoniously canceled. Subsequent ‘re-structuring’ with the company’s internal business strategy in 2015 meant less focus going towards AAA game development, and more attention towards the mobile game market and previously-mentioned gambling machines; neither of which had room for the more ostentatious new engine. Konami, who had poured quite a bit of money and time into building ‘the world’s greatest game engine,’ were suddenly left holding a winning lottery ticket that they had no interest in cashing, leaving fans and developers utterly baffled by their inconsistent decision making.

“Why are we still here? Just to suffer?” – Literally Everyone

Fox Engine’s slow crawl towards the grave became inevitable. With no big titles in active development, years passed while the engine gathered dust on Konami’s shelf, getting only sporadic usage from yearly entries in the PES soccer franchise. The Kojima Productions team, who’d worked relentlessly creating an awesome engine to surpass their peers, had no projects to work on after the disastrous Metal Gear Survive, and watched as their beloved Fox Engine failed to receive proper updates and maintenance as such software needs. Konami’s pursuit of alternative markets proved lucrative enough that their expensive in-house engine didn’t see much action. And there it sat, patiently waiting for some big post-MGSV moment to arrive… but it never would.

Ultimately, the Fox Engine became a casualty of larger business decisions made by Konami that would alienate their most dedicated fans. Silence has been the company’s theme for most of the last five years; once one of the most prolific names in gaming, Konami hasn’t shown much interest in moving out of their re-organized strategy or letting anyone else use Fox Engine to create something meaningful. Instead, they willingly admit work has to be done in mending the broken relationship it has with consumers. Killing their engine, once built solely for Metal Gear Solid, in favor of using the industry’s most recognizable name seems like a step in the wrong direction, but hey, what do I know?

Unreal Engine 5, teased last month, will have an even stronger presence in the industry.

The lasting legacy of the Fox Engine is ultimately one of lost potential, wasted in the hands of those who didn’t care to understand it. While it’s rather unsurprising that Konami wants to shift future game development away from stagnant technology at the dawn of a new console era, it remains endlessly frustrating to see a once-aggressive player in the world of game development become so passive towards innovation. Epic Games, the masterminds behind Unreal Engine 5, are surely eager to license out their more-than-capable latest engine. Nonetheless, it’s disappointing that the promise of Konami’s own engine never came close to a reality. Instead of being utilized by the creatives at the company to build immersive video game experiences with beloved franchises like Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Silent Hill, the engine instead hung around as a means to support titles that likely didn’t need it. We’ll never really know what kind of opportunities were lost — only that Konami’s new titles will likely feel a bit different under the Unreal Engine 5.

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Daniel is a freelance journalist. He enjoys hiking, long walks on the beach, and discussing Metal Gear theories that nobody wants to hear.

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