Corporate Suicide & Media Nostalgia

(I’m going to keep this brief, because I have a much larger project about this theme forthcoming.)

Be it gender-bender remakes like Ghostbusters & Ocean’s 8, Disney’s subversive Star Wars, or most recently the announcement of Diablo Immortal, it’s become painfully apparent that much of the entertainment industry has forgotten the business truism which gained them their monolithic status– “The customer is always right.” Despite unfettered access to resources like Reddit that previous corporate generations would have killed for–wherein one’s customers openly discuss what they would be most enthused to buy–these corporations have never been less attuned to the will of their own audiences. Franchise fans are increasingly made to feel as though they are anxiously standing in a tyrannical government breadline, hoping beyond hope that their beloved stories have been treated with some modicum of respect, kept alive and well instead of being butchered and taxidermized to serve as the cadaverous host for some alien political or financial scheme. But swollen with hubris and overcome by a Midasian madness for short-term profits at any cost, these corporations are beginning to behave like the sub-prime mortgage loaners of ’08–as though they are “Too Big to Fail.”

This is, to say the least, a deadly assumption in the decentralizing age of Patreon, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Paypal, etc., wherein enterprising entrepreneurs can move with youthful swiftness to snatch up untapped or alienated markets while corporate giants clumsy lumber behind. Take for example Konami–a video game company widely reviled as of late–who told fans they would never return to the retro (i.e. classic) Castlevania series since such things are out of vogue. Que Koji Igarashi (formerly of Konami) and his Bloodstained, a Kickstarter project to revive retro Castlevania under a different name. Bloodstained quickly became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time. Not without begrudging undertones, Konami then announced it would be rereleasing some of Iga’s original retro Castlevania titles, obviously to scrounge for whatever pennies he has deigned to leave them. This is the same corporation that fired Hideo Kojima when he refused to release an unfinished Metal Gear Solid V, then repackaged all of V‘s assets into a Kojima-less abomination called Metal Gear Survive, in which they literally took a franchise and added zombies to it, as the tired trope goes.

Doubtlessly some of these decisions are mere malevolent cash-grabs, but the boon of social media reveals that many of these corporate “creators” (“grifters,” more like), are genuinely surprised at the vitriol with which their franchise reboots, rehashes, and assassinations are met. Their ignorance of the mechanics of nostalgia is as surprising as it is disappointing. Clearly, they have never studied their True Detective Season One (which every media-minded person should). Else, they would have caught this most momentous of lines–“Meaning is historical.” Nostalgia is not in a name, but in emulation, just as the offspring of a revered family are capable of sullying that familial name if they fail to honor the legacy which it evokes. Star Wars, if not Lucasian–full of ying/yang morality–is not Star Wars. Metal Gear, if not Kojimian–singular in oddity and execution–is not Metal Gear. One cannot (or very rarely can) innovate and simultaneously appeal to nostalgia; these are equal yet opposite forces. If establishment entertainment persists in trying to be Jacks of both these trades, they will forevermore be Masters of none. And there are plenty of hungry, internet-savvy creators eager to take their place.

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