Namco Bandai's Japanese president disappointed in Western developed games

For all the talk about cross-cultural development, Japanese publishers seem to be struggling with working out how to make games overseas (as in, anywhere not in Japan). Following disappointing sales of Western-developed games such as Enslaved, Splatterhouse, and Dead to Rights: Retribution, Namco Bandai Games has made the decision to severely scale back all development of games outside of its Japanese studios.

Above: This kind of talk hurts the brain of Enslaved's star

Speaking with Bloomberg, Namco Bandai President Shukuo Ishikawa elaborated on the decision. “We found the quality and development speed of titles made for us by the overseas studios to be lacking. Foreign studios can still propose and develop games, but our Japanese staff will control the process more closely.” Which basically means western developers can still propose games to NBGI, but the likelihood of getting turned down is much higher – and if your proposal does get accepted, you’re going to be under very close scrutiny from the Japanese side of the company every step of the way.

Above: Splatterhouse was hit with many, MANY delays

Don’t misunderstand: Namco Bandai games isn’t abandoning the overseas market as a lost cause. The article also points out that Namco Bandai wants half of its revenue from game sales to come from Western markets by 2016 (currently, 70% of company revenue is coming from Japan). In fact, the percentage of sales in the West is increasing: In the next financial year (which ends in March), NBGI expects sales in Western markets to increase 56%, while Japanese sales will fall by 14%.

Above: We admit that Dead to Rights: Retribution wasn't all that

Thus far, however, sales of their big games that were developed in the West have been fairly flat. An example given in the article is Clash of the Titans, a game that sold less than half of its 700,000-unit projection. This is a bit misleading, because Clash of the Titans actually WAS developed in Japan. But there are more appropriate examples that would have made the same point. Word has it that Enslaved and Splatterhouse, two other western-developed titles, didn’t perform to expectations either. It’s not hard to read between the lines here: Essentially, you’re going to be seeing a lot fewer games like Enslaved and other original, Western-developed games from Namco Bandai, and a lot more of the usual popular anime tie-ins and classic collections that are sure bets for bringing in money over here.

For our part, we think this is pretty dumb.

Above: Don't worry, the well-realized, humanized characters of Enslaved won't bother you any more

The problem is not that the games were developed in the West. It’s the dozens of other bad decisions that surrounded their creation. Releasing Enslaved, a fantastic game but a brand new IP gamers have never seen before, in a holiday season dominated by games with “2” and “3” in their titles? Not wise. Releasing Clash of the Titans at all instead of killing it when it became clear the movie was a steaming pile and the game wouldn’t be done for months? Worse. And while it’s true the Splatterhouse revival was notoriously troubled from the outset and it had a Western developer (more than one in fact), the mistake there was choosing the wrong specific developer, not the wrong hemisphere in which to develop the game.

Above: Namco's ground-breaking Pac-Man Party

But hey, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a good game and it was developed in Japan – it’s probably selling like hotcakes, right? Ooooooh right. Ouch.

Above: Majin reviewed well, but still had its priced slashed at launch

So yeah – as Westerners, we’re sore about this. But tell you what, Namco Bandai – you give us one of those new Tales games knocking around Japan and we’ll call it even. Cool?

Dec 15, 2010

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  • ViolentLee - December 21, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    Namco has always been terrible at managing Western-developed franchises. If it's not a Pac, Soul, Tekken, or Ridge, they have no idea what to do with it. Dead to Rights was a great example -- excellent unique IP that they dicked around on for a sequel, then got rid of the entire original team in favor of a quick-and-dirty send-up. Then they dragged it further in the dirt with a crappy PSP game. It will never recover. And they're going to blame anyone but those on the tippy-top who pick these hit-filled launch dates, give no marketing budget, and basically fudge the entire process. Nice.
  • Asral - December 17, 2010 10:30 a.m.

    Too bad. I loved Enslaved and think it's the best multi-platform game of the year. Still, I'm going to keep careful hopes up for a sequel
  • BazyLastard - December 17, 2010 2:24 a.m.

    Yet oddly enough other Western-developed games seem to do just fine over here in the West. So maybe it's not Western developers, maybe it's just *your* Western developers. But good luck with that "our Japanese developers will show our Western developers how it's done" attitude. I predict continued failure.
  • 2cute2Bcruel - December 16, 2010 10:30 p.m.

    A certain site not solely devoted to games says the main reason why we don't get more Tales games is because, and I quote, "Namco are dicks".
  • 2cute2Bcruel - December 16, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    YES. More (good) Tales games.
  • TheSugarRay - December 16, 2010 9:24 p.m.

    Even polite people are huge dicks. So much of stuff from namco is same-ey shit anyways. I played and liked enslaved despite how there is only one fixed path.
  • FauxFurry - December 16, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    Enslaved:Odyssey to the West and SplatterHouse under-performed largely due to insufficient advertisement budgets and competition the latest installments of proven franchises,most likely,a proven recipe for failure no matter what side of the Atlantic a game,movie or TV show is developed on. So,what would have been the most logical way around this problem? They should have played up their pedigrees a bit more. Enslaved could have been advertised during some action anime network programming block (preferably during some airing of DragonBall Z/Kai)while making it clear that it is (loosely)based upon the same story that the DragonBall series drew inspiration from. In the case of SplatterHouse,all it needed was a 4 tacked on to the title. That and a make-over for Rick. The game would have sold like butter substitute and auto-tuned pop music then!
  • red069 - December 16, 2010 3:16 p.m.

    i am getting both enslaved and majin for christmas... pretty siked about them both.. its too bad gaming is dominated by fps games and enslaved and majin both came out at a bad time surrounded by other games.. holiday season can be a risk for no name games.. its a shame i like games like these
  • mockraven - December 16, 2010 2:43 p.m.

    This is sad news. I really enjoyed Enslaved and was hoping to see some kind of sequel or at least more content released for it. The characters were really memorable and the storyline engaging. That and the companion system was actually good! I think I'll go cry, alone, in a dark corner, by myself, now.
  • SideOfBeef - December 16, 2010 2:41 p.m.

    The article title is pretty misleadng, and upon reading the article I have to pretty much agree with Namco's position. They should be disappointed. While they might not be doing well on either side of the ocean, what I usually see is foreign developers are much harder to work with and fix up, for every publisher. So, when you need to fix your developers, you know which ones you're going to cut loose.
  • moan4stalone - December 16, 2010 1:29 p.m.

    Shame enslaved was my game of the year that no one ever heard of.
  • Zachariel - December 16, 2010 1:19 p.m.

    Clever guys. Exhuming a long dead franchise and releasing it in the middle of one the holiday season sales was obviously the right way to go, just the western developer screwed up. Launching a new IP around the same time as Dead Rising 2 and Castlevania and with Call of Duty on the Horizon seems like a good idea, too. So let's charge 70€ for a SP game with quite a short playtime and blame it on the developer, if it doesn't sell. And Clash of the Titans, well everything's already been mentioned about that. Cr***y movie tie ins don't sell like they used to and with a cr***y movie they sell even worse. But as long as Ninja Theory can go on without them, I couldn't care less about NB.
  • Crabhand - December 16, 2010 1:12 p.m.

    Were it not for this site and TalkRadar, I would have never gotten into Enslaved. Now who's fault is that, Namco Bandai? The marketing was clearly spot on.
  • Clovin64 - December 16, 2010 12:56 p.m.

    Does this mean there is now no chance whatsoever of seeing a sequel to Enslaved? Noooooooooo!!!
  • philipshaw - December 16, 2010 12:41 p.m.

    This sucks but you can see why they did it with the sales of new IP's not being great
  • ChainsawHero - December 16, 2010 12:14 p.m.

    What about the holiday sales for people waiting for christmas to get Enslaved?
  • Eaxis - December 16, 2010 11:44 a.m.

    Enslaved is a great game. Clash of the titans is a dump covered in more shit. People don't buy shit!.
  • bilstar - December 16, 2010 11:23 a.m.

    That's right Namco, peddle out the same old stuff for years then give up after your first attempt at doing anything new and interesting in ages. A bit more marketing or just ploughing on and doing a sequel (to Enslaved) might have birthed you a proper new franchise. Rome was not built in a day. Best of luck making more niche, tired and uninspired games. At least you'll always have Ridge Racer and Tekken. I really liked Enslaved :(
  • mattdark - December 16, 2010 7:23 a.m.

    Didnt Majin do even worse then Enslaved? While both didnt sell as well as people hoped, I remember Enslaved was pretty much all-around praised for its content (With some gripes with the 2nd half though) while Majin was critisied for a number of problems, which included the rather weak AI for the Majin itself. Gotta love Namco's thought process though. Focus less on games that at least sell. Instead, focus more on anime-games, which are a niche-market outside of japan and will sell even less, which will only be catered towards fans of the said series, as they vwill have only the smallest bit of story available...
  • thearcani - December 16, 2010 7:21 a.m.

    I guess that is why Ninja Theory is working for Capcom now... Maybe Namco should focus more on increasing the marketing budget in the West. I barely saw any Enslaved advertising except on gaming websites.