Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. (株式会社バンダイナムコゲームス Bandai Namco Games Inc., formerly named Namco Bandai Games Inc. and often stylized as BANDAI NAMCO Games Inc.) is a Japanese video game developer and publisher. It is a merge between the video game divisions of Bandai and Namco.
They are best known for the creation of multiple iconic franchises, including Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Mappy, Babylonian Castle Saga, Gundam, Tekken, SoulCalibur, Ace Combat, Tales of..., Taiko no Tatsujin, Dark Souls, and THE IDOLM@STER. They've also been recently known to develop games based on several anime, such as Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and Sword Art Online.
Bandai was established in July 5, 1950 by Naoharu Yamashina, after learning about the toy market alongside his wife and separating it from his failed textile venture. The company was originally named Bandai-ya, derived from the Chinese phrase "bandai fueki", meaning "things that are eternal". The company first sold imported celluloid dolls, metal toys, rubber swim rings, and its own toy the Rhythm Ball - a beach ball with a bell inside that unfortunately suffered numerous defects. As the years went on, the quality of Bandai's original toys increased, leading to its growing popularity, to the point where they began to be exported to the United States.
As a result of the increased demand, Bandai-ya began expanding its business. These included the construction of a new shipping and warehouse facility, a research and development department, and a quality assurance system. The company's public image also began to shift to a more family friendly presence, which included the renaming to simply Bandai in July 1961. Further success would be achieved in 1963, with the company gaining the license to make toys based on the anime series Astro Boy. The toy line's high sales would lead to further licensing opportunities with other anime over the years such as Ultraman, Gundam, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and Power Rangers. In 1978, the company established Bandai America Inc., a subdivision that focuses on States-side sales and marketing.
The 80s would bring about a sea change for Bandai following the installment of new company president Makoto Yamashina, the son of the original founder. Bandai saw themselves officially entering the video games industry with the release of Tag Team Match: MUSCLE in 1985 for Nintendo's Famicom, which went on to sell over a million copies. Bandai was also responsible for the creation of the Family Trainer Pad, an interactive mat compatible with the Famicom which was sold in the US as the Power Pad. Bandai also released two games for their Power Pad, being Athletic World and the now extremely rare title Stadium Events.
In January 1997, Bandai announced intentions to merge with Sega involving a $1 billion stock swap allowing Sega to dissolve Bandai and establish Sega Bandai Ltd. with a combined $6 billion in revenue. The merge was a result of some recent severe financial losses for both; Bandai experienced a ¥9 billion loss due to declining game sales, while Sega was still reeling from the disastrous US launch of the Sega Saturn. However, several Bandai employees and midlevel executives opposed the merger, feeling that the company's rather safe work ethic clashed with Sega's top-down corporate structure. Due to the increased negative reaction from within, Bandai called off the merger a mere five months before its finalization in October, instead agreeing to a business alliance. In the aftermath, Yamashina took responsibility for the merger's failure and resigned, while Sega's own President, Hayao Nakayama, left his position as well.
In the years that followed prior to its eventual merger with Namco, a business restructure would be initiated in an effort to save revenue resulting in Bandai selling a 5% stake to fellow toy company Mattel. Further ventures included creating the popular Tamagotchi line of digital toys, investing in the cell phone and internet providing business, developing digital content, and expanding the business with several acquisitions of their own.
5 years after Bandai's inception, on June 1, Masaya Nakamura would begin Nakamura Seisakusho Co., Ltd. in Ikegami, Tokyo, initially installing hand-cranked rocking horses at department stores. The horses were a decent success, prompting Nakamura to add more to different locations. By 1959, the company reorganized and changed its name to Nakamura Manufacturing Company, and by 1963, the Mitsukoshi department store chain funded the construction for an amusement space in its store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. The space was a success, leading Mitsukoshi to develop more amusement spaces in all of its stores.
In 1966, the company's offices moved to a production plant in an effort to produce their own amusement machines. Further success for the company would be gained after obtaining the license to make rides based on characters from Walt Disney Productions and various anime such as Little Ghost Q-Taro. The facility was also used by Nakamura to create other elaborate games, including Sega's Periscope and gun games based on Ultraman. By 1971, the company expanded its presence with the installation of its arcade games in bowling allies and grocery stores, as well as the establishing of a robotics division to develop robots for entertainment centers and festivals. In August 1973, Namco entered into a publishing deal with Atari. However, the deal had disastrous results, in part due to employee theft and the rise of the medal game in Japan, though it would make Nakamura Manufacturing one of the country's biggest arcade distributors.
The company underwent another name change in June 1977, shortening it to simply Namco (Nakamura Manufacturing Company). In September 1, 1978, Namco established its first American branch, Namco America, in Sunnyvale, California, with the goal of importing games and licensing to other game companies such as Atari and Bally Manufacturing. Around this same time, Japan began to experience a video game boom following the release of Taito's Space Invaders. Capitalizing on the success of its Atari distribution, the company's manufacturing facility was reconfigured into a game development division to create its first original game - the pinball-inspired title Gee Bee released on October 1978. This was followed a year later with Galaxian, which has since become considered one of the greatest games of all time. May of the following year saw the birth of the company mascot with the release of Puck Man. Though a moderate success in Japan, it found most of its audience in the West, where it was released as Pac-Man, which has since become a staple in global pop-culture.
The successes of Galaxian and Pac-Man would lead to the creation of more iconic arcade titles through the 80s, such as Galaga, Pole Position, Dig Dug, Xevious, Mappy, The Tower of Druaga, Pac-Land, and Gaplus. Though they were big hits in the arcades, the titles would later find a much wider audience with their ports to Nintendo's Famicom system. Because of the popularity of the home console versions, Namco was given a five-year royalty contract as one of Nintendo's first third-party development supporters. Meanwhile, Namco's collaboration with Atari began to grown even more strained, mainly due to Nakamura's dislike of the company and seeing them as a competitor as well as his fear of losing the publication deal potentially leading to Namco going under. Heads at Atari were also displeased with Namco as well, mainly their marketing of the games in Japan. In the end, Namco would sell 20% of its ownership stake to a group of Atari employees, leaving Namco with a minority stake in the company until 1988. By 1990, new company president Tadashi Manabe dissolved any of its remaining connections with Atari Games, with the remaining 40% stake ownership being sold to Time Warner.
in February 1992, Namco opened Wonder Eggs in the Futakotamagawa Time Spark area in Setagaya, Tokyo, the company's first ever theme park. Its attractions were based on several of its titles, including the 3D rail shooter Galaxian3: Project Dragoon and a dark ride based on The Tower of Druaga. Three months later, Manabe resigned from his position due to his anxiety disorder and was replaced by Nakamura's return. In 1993, Namco began developing arcade titles with 3D graphics with the assistance of its System 22 arcade board. These new graphical capabilities made way for brand new titles including Ridge Racer and Tekken. The company also acquired Nikkatsu, Japan's oldest film studio, allowing it to use its graphics hardware for its motion pictures. Namco Group was later established to focus on all of its entertainment divisions.
In 1994, Namco entered into a partnership with Sony to develop titles for its PlayStation console. The collaboration was a result of Namco's growing frustrations with Nintendo and Sega's licensing conditions for their consoles. One of the PlayStation's launch titles was a high quality port of Ridge Racer, which went on to be a runaway success, often being credited for the PlayStation's huge lead over the Sega Saturn. The collaboration between Namco and Sony grew stronger for duration of the PlayStation's lifecycle, with some of the arcade boards being designed after the console's hardware. Namco also developed several peripherals for the console, including the GunCon, the NeGcon, and the Namco Arcade Stick. Though Namco had strong ties with Sony throughout the 90s, they also developed several titles for the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Dreamcast, with the latter being the debut system for SoulCalibur.
Namco began to experience a decline of sales in 1998 following the Japanese Recession. Several hundred of its arcade facilities also began to close, with its arcade development division Namco Cybertainment filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a part of company restructuring and diversification, Namco entered the mobile phone industry in 1999 with the establishing of Namco Station. The company also acquired another development studio, Monolith Soft. By October 2000, it was reported that Namco experienced a net loss of ¥2.1 billion. Several more arcades were later shut-down by the end of the year, including the closing of Wonder Eggs. 250 employees were also laid off following further restructuring. Its oversees branches also experienced some troubles, with Namco America and Namco Hometek also initiating reorganization and restructuring. Though Namco still released several successful titles, such as Taiko no Tatsujin and Katamari Damacy, sales still remained lower than expected as the early 21st century continued.
Nakamura resigned again on 2004, with Kyushiro Takagi succeeding him. Worried about the company's continued financial struggles, Nakamura suggested the company look into possible mergers with other game companies. Their first offer was towards both Squaresoft and Enix for a possible three-way combination; president of Square Yoichi Wada declined based on Namco's poor financial results and instead agreeing to a business alliance. Their second deal was with Sega, which was also experiencing its own struggles after poor sales of their Dreamcast. However, Sega was already discussing a merger of its own with pachinko and pachislot company Sammy Corporation. In the end, Sega and Sammy would merge to become Sega Sammy Holdings.
In February 2005, in the wake of Namco's 50th anniversary festivities, the company announced its third merger attempt, this time with Bandai. The deal was initially met with pushback from Namco's advisors, as they felt Namco's more traditional work environment would clash with Bandai's corporate model. They also disliked Bandai's focus on promotion and marketing over quality. Takagi's successor, Shigeichi Ishimura, however pressured Nakamura to support the merge as Namco's sales continued to go further down. Both companies officially came to an agreement on May 2 and finalized on the following September 29, with Bandai acquiring Namco for $1.7 billion and properly establishing Namco Bandai Holdings. The resulting stock swap was valued at ¥458 billion, making Namco Bandai the third-largest video game company, behind Sega Sammy and Nintendo. Namco's vice chairman Kyushiro Takagi was appointed chairman and director of the new company.
In the years following the acquisition, several of Bandai and Namco's internal divisions also merged; on January 26, 2006 Namco Hometek and Bandai Games became Namco Bandai Games America as the company's proper American branch, both video game studios combined to become Namco Bandai Games on the following March 31, and Namco Networks (Namco's mobile games development studio) was absorbed into Namco Bandai Games America in 2011. In March 2013, Namco Bandai launched two new studios, being Namco Bandai Studios Singapore and Namco Bandai Studios Vancouver. In 2014, the company changed its name to Bandai Namco Holdings, with all of its subsidiaries following suit.
Involvement with Super Smash Bros.
Bandai Namco is the fourth third-party company with inclusion of company mascot Pac-Man in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, bringing with him two stages (Pac-Maze from the original Pac-Man arcade game and Pac-Land from the game of the same name), a summonable Assist Trophy being the Ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde), and several music tracks and Trophies. Several other Bandai Namco properties are also represented; these include two items (the Boss Galaga from Galaga and the Special Flag from Rally-X) and DLC Mii Fighter Costumes based on Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia, and Gil from Babylonian Castle Saga. Several other characters from classic arcade games make a cameo through Pac-Man's special Taunt named "Namco Roulette". Pac-Man, Pac-Land, the Ghosts, all (but 2) music tracks, both items, and the Heihachi and Gil costumes return for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this time adding three new remixes from Galaga, Mappy, and Dragon Spirit.
Some Nintendo games developed by Bandai Namco have also seen some representation. Characters as they appear in Star Fox: Assault, Donkey Konga, and Mario Superstar Baseball all make cameos as Stickers in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Donkey Kong's Final Smash in Brawl and 3DS/Wii U, Konga Beat, is also inspired by the Donkey Konga games. A stage based on Assault, Orbital Gate Assault, also makes its debut in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
Apart from getting representation, Bandai Namco has also been involvement with the creation of both 3DS/Wii U and Ultimate, being chosen by Masahiro Sakurai as the games' lead developer. According to Sakurai, they were picked due to their extensive experience with fighting games, namely Tekken and SoulCalibur.
- Bandai Namco is tied with SNK with the least amount of playable characters out of all the other third-party companies, with both having one.
- Bandai Namco is currently the only returning third-party company in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to not have a newcomer.
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