INTERVIEW: Carlson Choi

Why have you combined your Networks and Games divisions?

Previously, there were different brands that one of these departments had access to that the other one didn’t. Putting these two departments together means the likes of Tekken, Ace Combat, Inversion and so on can now be accessed by all the development teams.

The other side of interest is digital. About three years ago digital accounted for one per cent of most publishers’ revenue, today it’s about 15 per cent. And this is an area that again the Network business knows very well because they were developing XBLA and PSN games. So for us it was a natural transition. It took affect from January 1st 2011.

Our immediate focus is on a multi-platform approach, so that when you leave the home you can take your gaming experiences with you.

You must be quite interested in what Sony are doing, letting Android owners play PlayStation games via PlayStation Suite?

That is very interesting. We do want to exploit all forms of emerging platforms and we’ll make announcements when we’re ready.

You’ve worked with Google before with your Pac-Man game on the Google homepage. Can we expect more from that?

We did a brand study to find out how relevant Pac-Man is today. And the results said Pac-Man is still extremely relevant, even to younger age groups.

It was about this time that we began our relationship with Google – and we believe in a lot of things that Google do. And we wanted to do something that would celebrate Pac-Man’s birthday, so we thought ‘Let’s do a Google Pac-Man’.

That was something unique and I think you’ll see more of those interesting ideas. Our core focus is to support all the emerging platforms and the mainstream platforms, and then you might see a little experiment like that.

Any further plans in the social network space?

Social is very different, it requires a different skillset and business model. More than anything else it is a massive CRM program, it is about building consumer relationship and loyalty before building a microtransaction aspect.

There is a team that has come over from the Network business that understands this model. Behind the scenes they have done an entire set of analytics on it, but we need to look at how we can be competitive. Because at the end of the day it needs to be a calculated risk, to make sure we get out there at the right time, with a great game that is relevant to the consumer. We are exploring this area.

How does digital, social and mobile fit into Namco’s plans to be a Top Five publisher?

We have become platform agnostic. Any connected device is an opportunity for us. We recently teamed up with the television manufacturer Vizio [in the US] to supply content to their connected TVs, because at the end of the day it is a screen. If you see a connected device with a display, you are likely to see us there in the future, but at the right time with the right content.

But traditional retail is still Namco Bandai’s focus?

Absolutely. Retail is never going to go away. It is going to be there forever. But we need to understand that fine balance between retail and digital. It is a challenge. Mr. Jobs changed the way the gaming market works. The question is, how will that evolve over the next couple of years and how can retailers stay relevant? Look at movies and music business – it’s becoming all digital.

Will gaming get there? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see and listen to the consumer to optimize our development path and delivery channel, so that when each game comes out, it is still relevant.

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