Lovingly called Kojima-san by all, Hideo Kojima is on a world tour visiting studios to get inspiration for his own new flagship, Kojima Productions. After a tumultuous breakup with Konami Group, which he previously headed as VP, he and his team are secretive about their studio's new location and pipeline but teeming with curiosity about Malmö and Sweden's game scene.
Kojima is scheduled to arrive after a morning at Ubisoft Massive, the Malmö-based development studio responsible for 2016's most sold game yet, Tom Clancy's The Division, and lunch with Game City, a game-community organisation in southern Sweden.
"Scandinavia is the centre of the world, producing not only high-end AAA games but also indie games, and games for mobile devices. I'm here to find out the secret why." Says Kojima-san.
Kojima-san's search for the secret scandi-ingredient has brought him to Malmö where he is set to do a live Q&A at the yearly games conference Nordic Game.
It's a sunny spring day in Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, and we can't walk around without conference-going fans stopping and asking Kojima for signature and selfies, which he kindly obliges.
Game Design: Like directing a film
Hideo Kojima gained esteem from the 'Metal Gear' game series and is known for his strong story-driven games which he crafts with a film-director approach. He speaks often of the similarities between game design and film direction and his admiration for famous directors.
Kojima-san's interest in moving images comes to light when he asks to be taken to locations where world-renowned TV series The Bridge is shot, naming it as one of his favourites. We drive past the Öresund Bridge connecting Sweden to Denmark as he tweets to his over 2 million followers.
Swedish Games Galore
A visit of this calibre to Sweden and Malmö is not surprising to the Swedish digital games industry, which according to recent reports, exported EUR 1.3 Billion in 2015. This marks an increase of 39% from 2014 and according to spokesperson for the Swedish Games Industry, Per Strömbäck, it doesn't show signs of stopping.
"The Swedish Games boom has created a situation where extreme growth is the norm. The situation is a bit crazy but many things are speaking to the fact that it will likely continue." says Strömbäck.
Back at Tarsier, whispers can be heard in the corridor, "He's here"'.
Shaky hands gear Kojimasan up to demo their new Virtual Reality (VR) game, Statik. The concept behind the game is that players should stay stationary to avoid the motion sickness many experience while wearing headsets.
After the demo, the 30 strong studio gathers in the kitchen to eat Swedish pastries with Kojimasan. Hideo Kojima's team notice that it feels like a big family in a large home and ask about the furnishings and company culture... possibly getting closer to one of the reasons behind Swedish game success.
Kojima-san speculates that the influence of design, coziness and closeness to nature in Sweden must be one of the secrets. "Everything in Sweden is designed and beautiful. From a young age, children get to interact with design in their cities and libraries and spend time in nature. I think this is very important' says Kojima.
Whatever the reasons are, it's working for Sweden, with international successes such as such as Ubisoft Massive's Tom Clancy: The Division, King's Candy Crush Saga, Tarsier's Little Nightmares, DICE's Battlefield and Mojang's Mine Craft, Kojima-san only wonders what's next.
Watch Hideo Kojima's Q&A interview at Nordic Game