While the video game market shrinks in Japan many Japanese publishers are looking at expanding in the West. Namco Bandai Games plans to do this with an American studio. I spoke with two producers from Namco Bandai Games America about the paradigm shift and what kinds of franchises they have access to.
How long have you been working at Namco Bandai?
Mitch Boyer, Producer: We were there from the Namco days.
Before the Namco Bandai merger?
Chester Vegara, Associate Producer: Yep.
Has the company changed much?
CV: Oh yeah, day and night.
MB: In the early Namco days there was not as much support behind the American studio as there is now. After the merger with Bandai there has been a lot more effort to get behind the American studio.
CV: To expand on that, we pretty much have a shared vision now. Before it was more or less NBGI supporting NBGA. Now we have a shared vision, shared profitability, to create great games.
How many people are employed at the Namco Bandai Games America studio now?
CV: In the internal team right now we have about 60 members.
How many titles are you working on?
CV: I’d say three at a time.
Do you have access to Bandai owned franchises? Like making an American Gundam game, for example.
CV: That is totally up to NBGI.
Is it possible?
MB: Anything is possible. A lot of it comes down to licensing. If we were going to say we want to make a Naruto game it’s not just whether Bandai will let us do it. It’s will the licensor in America let us do it as an American studio. We have a lot more hurdles to get through if we wanted to work on a Japanese franchise.
How has the process changed when pitching games?
MB: I think we have a lot more eyes on it and that’s great. When you’re operating in a vacuum, and I’m just being real about it, you don’t know if your ideas suck. If I come up with a concept for a game, and I’m the only voice in the room, I don’t know if that idea is going to be a success.
Now, we have the opportunity to bounce our ideas off people who know how to make games in Japan. Do you guys like this idea? Do you see where were coming from with this? How can we change it to make it successful?
MB: If I were given the keys to the kingdom I would like to take the racing genre back. That’s something we have a history of.
CV: Ridge Racer!
MB: We had Pole Position, Rally-X, and Ridge. We really have a strong legacy there as a company. I’d like to take the racing genre back and do something that nobody has ever imagined.
CV: I’d like to take advantage of all the characters we do have. I think besides Nintendo, and they have a really big collection of characters that are really recognizable, Namco is on the same boat. We have Pac-Man, all the Tekken characters, and try to make something where we can bring all of those characters in. For example Smash Brothers, something like that, where we can get all of those characters into one game and cater to all of those fans of those different IPs would be great a great idea.
I heard of a game sort of like that, though more limited in scope, called Tales of Vs.
CV: Oh, I never heard of it. [laughs]
Look for part two on Monday when Chester and Mitch discuss the benefits of working directly with NBGI and the difficulty bringing games developed by Namco Bandai Games America into Japan.