In a surprise move Bandai Namco this morning announced its first venture on Amazon Alexa with the new Pac-Man Stories skill, which will provide interactive audio adventures starring the ever-popular character. It's the first project from the new Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe Innovation Department, which will look to explore new areas and formats.
The first story to launch with the skill is Pac-Man and the Ghastly Garbage, which looks to deliver 'a fun engaging adventure' with what sounds like some environmentally friendly themes. Additional stories will be added throughout the summer.
We caught up with Bandai Namco's Lee Kirton in his guise of Pac-Man Officer for Europe (though he's still Marketing and PR Director when he's not busy gobbling up those dots) and asked him about the thinking behind the project.
Why Pac-Man on Alexa?
Amazon Echo is an exciting platform and one we have been closely working with the team on. Voice is part of our future in tech, having been integrated into some many other products and as a platform itself it was exciting for us to develop what we had been planning for some time.
We started looking at Pac-Man storytelling experiences that could help children 'learn' whilst taking them on an exciting adventure where their choices affect the story. With Amazon Echo, the platform allows us to do what we want, which is create fun, entertaining storytelling that's delivered with a full cast of actors, music and sound production values whilst allowing children and parents to engage together, make moral choices, help others, take care of the elderly, collect, respect one another whilst learning how to listen and pronounce specific words.
Using Pac-Man and a cast of characters allows us to do this in a fun way.
Pac-Man has a very strong visual element to his brand, but he’s not usually a big talker, how did that shape your approach?
Great question... Ultimately Pac-Man doesn't talk, apart from his appearance in recent animations, however we decided to take an approach that works perfectly. The narrator guides you through the adventure, explaining what you're seeing, who you meet and then those VO's take over. In the first story you eventually meet up with Pac-Man and he joins you on your quest, he helps you and supports you, but ultimately engages with you using his famous sounds including Wakakakakaka...
Other characters from Pac-Man universe appear in the stories as well, and a cast of new real world characters with full VO as well. It's great, funny and entertaining and your choices really do have an effect on the story and the outcome - Based on your decisions, you'll win Power Pellets and depending on the right decisions you'll collect these and experience a specific ending. It feels as if you're trying to solve the case of the Ghastly Garbage together!
Does this have any specific link to any previous Pac-Man cartoons?
No. This is a completely new experience based on our classic Pac-Man IP. We have however included new characters, scenes and scenarios into the world, bringing Pac-Man planet to life.
Can you tell us more about the Innovation Department and its aims?
The EU innovations team is made up of specific members of the business and we have been working on looking at all areas of Bandai Namco Entertainment, the IP we have, the licenses we support and how big of a global entertainment company we are. We took a lot of time to evaluate us, before looking from the outside in at new emerging platforms, exciting new opportunities and the future of technology and new IP. We also explored and have explored other forms of entertainment.
Education is something that is truly important to us and something we are focusing on heavily, but differently. We are looking over a number of projects but we are really proud of what we have done with the Pac-Man Stories skill and the adventures we will include over the coming months. I hope everyone downloads it and tries it with their kids...