Think of Bandai Namco a few years back, and it's likely that Pac-Man and Dragon Ball Z would come to mind.
In 2015, however, it's titles like The Witcher and Project CARS that have helped to redefine the publisher.
The firm had its first monthly UK publisher No.1 in May of this year following the blockbuster success of both CD Projekt RED's fantasy RPG and Slightly Mad Studios' racing title, which it published and distributed in the region. In fact, 25 per cent of all games sold during the month were published by Bandai Namco.
We've had a very strong 2015. It's definitely one of our strongest years to date,” EMEA communications and events director Andr Persson says.
With the releases of Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Project CARS, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, F1 2015 and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, we have gained an incredible amount of market share and generated a record amount of sales thanks to these high quality titles.”
Bandai Namco is on a roll, with its publishing and distribution of third-party titles continuing to gain momentum.
We have some great relationships on the distribution side with companies like Codemasters, Little Orbit, UIG and CD Projekt RED,” explains Persson. Co-publishing a brilliant racing game like Project CARS with Slightly Mad Studios has been a great learning experience for us and this will positively impact future titles like Get Even, which we are working on with developer The Farm 51. We have been very passionate about all of these titles, building high quality plans for local markets and demonstrating them at global and local events that blow many others out of the water. We put a lot of hours, dedication and love into our PR and communities.
We will continue to work on third-party publishing and distribution deals with the right partners that fit with our business.”
"We have invested heavily in localisation
and special and collector editions to
offer die-hard fans something they
can keep forever."
Lee Kirton, Bandai Namco
With the success Bandai Namco has had with its recent Western releases, one would be forgiven for assuming that the firm would start to favour these over its traditional line-up of Japanese titles. But this is not the case.
Our Japanese IPs remains very important to our business and actually are very successful in the EMEA territories,” retorts Persson. Dragon Ball Xenoverse may not grab the headlines in the UK because of a lot of noise from triple-A mainstream titles, but behind the scenes we are witnessing some incredible successes – so we are happy with our ever-growing fanbase around the world.
Game series such as One Piece, Naruto, Sword Art Online, Tales of and, of course, Dark Souls are also examples of very successful franchises inside and outside of Japan. Our overall entertainment ethos of delivering dreams, fun and inspiration to our huge fanbase is valid regardless of first- or third-party titles.”
"2015 is definitely one of our strongest years to date."
Andre Persson, Bandai Namco
UK PR and marketing boss Lee Kirton adds that there is still a dedicated fanbase for anime and manga.
It's always a tough one, as in the UK and Ireland you don't grow up with anime and manga as you do in Japan and other countries,” he explains.
Having said that, there is a very strong fan base and we've witnessed this through our engagement with community and fans at events, and the one-to-one relationships we have with bloggers and media. It retains a healthy consumer base that we are well aware of and we continue to bring all of the titles we promised we would to the Western channels. We can do this through box or digital, including mobile, and we have invested heavily in localisation and special and collector editions to offer die-hard fans something they can keep forever.
The anime and manga market is incredibly important to us; we have some amazing titles with Tales of Zesteria, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 and Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butoden to name a few.”
In fact, these anime titles make-up a great deal of Bandai Namco's upcoming line-up.
We have a very busy year ahead of us,” Persson says.
Our focus right now is on our Japanese manga titles, including Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, as well as the brilliant Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations, Get Even and our new mobile title Pac-Man 256, which I think many people will enjoy. Adventure Time is epic and the new game has voiceovers from the show that will surely please fans. Also, Dark Souls III just won the best role-playing game prize at this year's Gamescom.
So we are continuing our strong year with some very exciting titles and we still haven't announced everything for this fiscal year yet.”
In addition to its console business, Bandai Namco is releasing titles in the mobile space. These include properties from animation studio Dreamworks such as How to Train Your Dragon 2, as well as titles based on the Monster High, Barbie and Pac-Man IPs.
Our mobile business is strong,” EMEA communications and events boss Andr Persson says. We have studios all over the world, including Europe, working on new titles. We have quite a big catalogue of games for all ages that are being enjoyed in local languages. Japan is of course the strongest market, but we are seeing a strong growth in all countries for our titles as well as the business in general.
We are trying a lot of new ideas with the mobile games we are releasing; one of the ideas I am actually quite fond of is the ability to fully buy and convert a free-to-play game into a purchased game. What this means is that you can pay a small set fee and the game gives you infinite credits to continue playing as much as you want but still keeps the game design intact. Pac-Man 256 will have this feature and shows that we are keeping up with the ever-changing mobile games industry.”