At Namco Bandai’s Ignite event, Carlson Choi, Vice President of Marketing, stressed the importance of community and partnerships with developers. One of the first announcements was an agreement with Demon’s Souls developer From Software to publish Dark Souls and Armored Core V overseas. After the presentation, we caught up with Choi and Makoto Iwai, Bandai Label President, to discuss their company’s strategies with external developers and community plans.
Today, Namco Bandai announced a partnership with developer From Software to publish Armored Core V and Dark Souls outside of Japan. How did this agreement come into place?
Makoto Iwai, Bandai Label President: From Software believes in their ability to make great games, but when it comes to marketing their games outside of Japan they are always looking for a great partner. They have done business with Sega in the past and this time they have been looking for cooperation [with another company]. And we’ve been looking for some opportunity because B-label (Bandai label) is always good with partnerships. Those demands met with the right timing and that’s why we came to the conclusion we would do business together.
Will the partnership extend beyond Dark Souls and Armored Core V or is it only for those two titles?
Good question. You never know. We have to prove ourselves first, right? That’s what they are looking forward to seeing, what sort of success we can bring to their titles. The current position that we agreed is let’s work hard on those two titles than our future will come up automatically if we do a great job.
For the Bandai label, Namco Bandai had a long lasting partnership with Game Republic. Knights Contract seems like its the last title among those. Are you still working with Game Republic?
Ah… it’s supposed be the end of it for now, but again it doesn’t mean we’re going to finish the relationship. Maybe, Game Republic needs time to save up energy to prepare for future projects. That’s where we are now.
What about CyberConnect2? Namco Bandai has a great relationship with the studio through .hack and the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series. But, now Capcom is beginning to work with them. Are you going to continue to work with them?
Oh yes, of course. Our relationship has never changed. We are preparing the next Naruto. We are always working with them for the Naruto franchise and that remains the same.
Beyond the Naruto titles, are you thinking about Solatorobo…
Solartorobo for the DS in Japan? I don’t think we have a plan to bring that title here, but we are always in talks with CyberConnect2 for future projects.
I know one announcement my readers are really going to be excited about is Tales. Why did Namco Bandai decide to start localizing Tales games again?
Again, as Carlson mentioned there is a strong existing fanbase. The buzz became too big to ignore, in a sense. Our company’s new theme and challenge is how to embrace community. A strong fanbase is something we can’t ignore, especially with Tales. How we can embrace those people is key.
It’s been a challenge for the JRPG in the US market. As long as they are loyal to this title, why don’t we embrace them? That’s a starting point.
And for Tales of Graces F, is it just the PlayStation 3 version or is it the Wii version as well?
We’ll see. We’re working on it. We’ll make the announcement later on.
Community, from today’s presentation, seems to be part of Namco Bandai’s new mantra with many official sites being Facebook pages. What strategies do you have to coalesce the existing communities for all of the different NBGI properties?
Good question, good question. For instance, each franchise has their own community. Like Naruto, they have their own community. You can see many existing communities with fans already communicating with each other. Our plan is to approach them and try to embrace them. It doesn’t matter if it’s official or unofficial. Fans are fans, right? How we can approach them, embrace them, and keep them up to speed where we are is our strategy.
While we’ve seen a lot of Nintendo 3DS games here, what do you think about the NGP from Sony?
Carlson Choi, Vice President of Marketing: At this point, we have a multiple platform approach, next-gen and are looking at emerging platforms. We’re definitely taking a look at that. There is a lot of opportunity and upcoming announcements we will be sharing with you in the next few months.
MI: We’re a game publisher so we are always happy to support new hardware.
Check back tomorrow for more comments from Iwai and Choi about the internal studio at Namco Bandai Games America and Enslaved.