Is this goodbye?

It is being reported that Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima will be parting company with Konami after the launch of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Tongues started wagging after Konami removed the Kojima Productions name from Metal Gear Solid V press material. Kojima's name was also absent from an updated list of Konami's executives. Konami has also removed Kojima Productions branding from Twitter, the Metal Gear website and its LA office listing.

According to an internal source speaking to Gamespot, power struggles between Kojima Productions and its owner Konami have resulted in staff being put on a media blackout, with restricted access to email, internet and telephone. It is understood that Kojima and his staff will now be restricted in their promotional activity for the upcoming title.

Konami has also taken the drastic step of turning Kojima Productions staff - including Kojima himself - into external contractors rather than permanent employees. Rumours suggest that once the next game is finished, the entire team will be disbanded.

The source added:

After we finish MGSV, Mr. Kojima and upper management will leave Konami. They said their contract ends in December. At a team meeting, Mr Kojima explained that team have to be one and make a good game for fans.

Konami's statement on the matter appears to suggest that Kojima remains part of the company, however:

As we have already announced, we are shifting our production structure to a headquarters-controlled system, in order to establish a steadfast operating base capable of responding to the rapid market changes that surround our digital entertainment business. Konami Digital Entertainment (including Mr. Kojima), will continue to develop and support Metal Gear products. Please look forward to future announcements.

Metal Gear is arguably Konami's biggest franchise, and losing the man who made it won't stop the publisher from making new titles under the brand. A press release on the company's Japanese website signalled the intention to create a totally new Metal Gear series, and the company is also staffing up to achieve this goal.

Kojima joined Konami in 1986 and would work on Metal Gear the following year, producing the game for the MSX system. A NES port - created without Kojima's involvement - would appear later, launching in North America in 1988 and bringing the series to the attention of a whole new audience.

Kojima would create other titles - such as Snatcher and Zone of the Enders - but Metal Gear remains his most famous achievement. Although the latest entry isn't coming to a Nintendo system, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes hit the GameCube back in 2004 and more recently the 3DS was gifted an updated version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, widely considered to be the best instalment in the series.

[via gamespot.com, eurogamer.net]