Yesterday, we posted our interview with Makoto Iwai, Bandai Label President, where we discussed the From Software publishing agreement and Namco Bandai’s partnerships with other external developers. Today’s topic is a little closer to home, it’s about Namco Bandai Games America’s internal studio. First announced as Surge, Namco Bandai’s Western studio made its debut with Afro Samurai in 2009 and recently finished work on Splatterhouse.
Iwai and Carlson Choi, Vice President of Marketing, address those topics and what’s next for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
Can you talk discuss the partnership with Capcom for Tekken X Street Fighter and Street Fighter x Tekken?
Carlson Choi, Vice President of Marketing: Have you been following Ono’s twitter channel? Did you see the attack?
Yeah, he walked into your office armed with the Dead Rising 2 spiked bat and knife gloves!
CC: He walked into the office and the next thing you know he’s like where you’re Tekken community manager? Where’s Rich! And I’m like what? He got into the board room and made a scene. I think for us Capcom is an exciting partnership. From Software is a great start. Saban [Power Rangers] is a great start. There is much more news company. That partnership is for multiple years and you’re going to see a lot of great things we’re going to be doing as partners.
How did the Capcom X Tekken idea start in the first place?
Makoto Iwai, Bandai Label President: That’s more because of the small world of developers, they go out and get drinks. Haruda and Ono have known each other for many years and always talk about the future and cooperation. That came to be realized at last. The conversation started a long, long time ago.
We’ve seen a lot of partnerships with Japanese developers, but what will happen to Namco Bandai Games America’s internal studio?
MI: Unfortunately, it’s always a business. Business is always looking for results and if you come out with not good results, then you have to think about the alternatives. We are in a stage where we have to reconsider how we are going to build US development, internally and externally. Don’t misunderstand, we haven’t extinguished the fire yet. We still have a dev. team doing the work together with the teams in Japan. It’s not like the US is doing their own thing and Japan is doing their own thing. It’s more like collaboration between the two groups. Though the size of the group is small, our hope for the group is someday we can bring the small fire to a big flame.
Specifically when talking about results, how do you feel about games like Enslaved, which felt like they were geared more for the West than Japan?
MI: It’s hard to say black or white. Results are everything for a business unit, so we have to face it. But, we are proud of ourselves for being able to launch that game. The sales side wasn’t as good as expected, but the reviews were good and everybody loved it. Maybe… after the launch, always regrets come, but you can’t focus on those. We feel that we did a great job that we launched that game.
CC: Let me add to that. From an Enslaved perspective, it’s a good example. Quality is key and our mission is to bring the best quality. It’s an 80+ rated title [on Metacritic] it did extremely well from a game quality standpoint. At DICE, which is coming next week we got six nominations. It speaks to the one element that is critical, which is the quality of the game.
To answer that question of the challenge of the unit number it really didn’t do what we anticipated. To be perfectly frank, I think as a company prior to us reforming this organization, going to market, I think the game went to market at a very busy season. It launched in the midst of a busy holiday season. Last year, there were like 4000+ games for consoles. We didn’t do a good job finding the right time for it because when you look at the quality of the game it speaks for itself. An 80+ rated game is guaranteed a hit. We got DLC that came out that got 10 out of 10. Ultimately, I think that game had the quality needed to address the gamers. I think it’s a matter of getting into the market at the right time, which is something you will see us do much better. Even this morning with some of the announcements, we’re getting ourselves ahead of schedule letting you know when its coming and incorporating community communication.
I think some of my readers would agree about the level of quality. Moving forward, since Enslaved is considered as one of the quality IPs that Namco Bandai owns, do you think there is a future for the it?
CC: You tell me, do you think gamers want more? I can assure you, a title like Enslaved, and every title we’ve worked on in the past we’re going to re-examine them and say what is the potential for the game? We’ve been doing a lot of studies, consumer engagement, and community engagement… let’s put it this way one of these days stay tuned there will be more news to come.