Since the App Store launch in 2008, Namco and now Namco Bandai Games has published over 100 apps. The company was there at launch with Ms. Pac-Man (and Pac-Man) and continues to be there today with both favorite franchises and new properties. We took a few moments to speak with Alex Adjadj, the Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America, Inc.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way Namco Bandai does business?
Alex Adjadj, Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc.: The video games industry is currently going through challenges on different fronts. Hardware transition on the console side. Exponential user and device fragmentation as well as standardization of development tools and fast growing marketing costs on the mobile side. It’s exciting, challenging and requires more attention to planning and execution.
The App Store has accelerated and accentuated these challenges. When it comes to a major publisher with thousands of employees, it’s always a bigger challenge because of the scale involved. But Namco Bandai Games knows mobile well, and has started doing mobile games with Apple back to the early days of the iPod Click Wheel (remember PAC-MAN?). It’s been great to have had their support to improve the quality and market relevance of our creations along those years.
148Apps: If you have one single success within Namco you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?
Alex Adjadj: We’ve had highs and lows. As I said, for a bigger publisher it’s just a question of more time, more planning, more investment, more internal communication. But there’s one thing that only a very few other publishers have today, it’s market knowledge and capacity to increase product development and segmentation without compromising on quality. In 2008, we were all about cost-conscious developments, with most of our releases being good ports, but also not taking full advantage of the iOS platform and hardware at the time. Fast forward 2013, we’ve got universal games that play well on iPad and iPhone, that are visually extraordinary thanks to Retina Display, that are fun to play with friends on Game Center, and that offer great value for money for gamers willing to pay or play for free.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Namco Bandai five years ago, what would you say?
Alex Adjadj: Actually I personally did contribute back in the summer of 2009 by further evangelizing in Europe and the US teams about the benefits of bringing dedicated products rather than ports to App Store. It changed a lot of perceptions back then, especially since we were still strongly driven by our feature phone business in overseas (i.e. Non-Japan) territories.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of Namco Bandai, that has surprised you most?
Alex Adjadj: It’s been a challenging, but a logical and relentless organic evolution. Apple has changed the world of digital content distribution and mobile gaming by annihilating barriers to entry, cutting a lot of (often, but not always, useless and costly) middle ‘men.’ By imposing its own standards, it has accelerated the growth of a young mobile video games industry, it has made it possible for the unveiling of incredibly successful and clever small production houses, and changed the perception of mobile gaming with the masses. My biggest surprises are the very little opposition Apple have faced from pre-existing market entrants, the incredible success it went through and the time it took for their competitors to come up with relevant hardware and retail ecosystems.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Alex Adjadj: Personally, I can perceive further device fragmentation in the iOS hardware line – very similar to what’s going on with Android right now. Device fragmentation will increase differences in usage and accordingly product & genre segmentation, a bit like what the iPad has done in terms of ‘console quality gaming for mobile.’ Following smartphone penetration growth in emerging markets, I also see further challenges to properly address consumers around the world, in terms of UX, billing, the relevance of content offering and the risk, already present, of content saturation and chart stagnation. I see 3 ways where this might go: first Apple might need to customize their App Store UI a bit differently per region, so that non-local publishers still get a chance to, at least, show their best content in new markets, without occurring prohibitive production costs. The second route must be to introduce more flexible billing routes so that all users can pay for content the way it fits their spending culture. The third, though unlikely given Apple’s necessary but very tight control on its ecosystem, would be to allow the ‘best’ publishers to get more control of how their content offering is tailored to end users.
Alex Adjadj wishes to add the following disclaimer: Mr. Adjadj speaks of his personal experience and opinions, and while being a full time employee of Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Namco Networks America Inc. and Namco Bandai Networks Europe since 2006, this article isn’t meant to be read as general consensus across other divisions of Bandai Namco Holdings. Alex is currently Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc., San Jose, California.
When Street Fighter x Tekken was quietly announced at E3 this year, many were relieved. It had been rumored for a while, but it was there, in the flesh (or silicon) and it was real. Demos started at PAX earlier this month. And we just got our hands on a build. Take a look at the video below to see what to expect.
Full details are still to come. But from the build we can get a sense of what characters we will be able to play, though others are likely to unlock as you progress in the game. In our early look it seems like the controls are pretty well done. As expected as the controls for Street Fighter IV also from Capcom were exceptional for a touch screen button masher like this.
Global multiplayer system will be included in the game. We were unable to test that in our version, though. It could add considerable interest to the game if it works well.
Look for Street Fighter x Tekken later this year, perhaps sooner, perhaps later. If we had to guess, from this build we would say sooner. But Capcom are being particularly cagey about this game. We hope to know more soon.
Namco has released a new app that is a collection of several of their arcade games compiled into one app, appropriately entitled Namco Arcade. The games included come from Namco’s vault of 80′s arcade titles: Xevious, The Tower of Druaga, Motos and Phozon.
Xevious is a shoot ‘em up that has players shooting enemies not just in the air, but on the ground by using bombs. The Tower of Druaga is a proto-action-RPG that has players navigating mazes, killing enemies, blocking magic, and trying to collect a key to unlock the next levle of the tower. Motos has players controlling a bumper car in an arena, trying to knock their enemies off without falling off themselves. Finally, Phozon is an action-puzzle game where players collect items called moleks in order to try and match the shape in the center of the level, while avoiding the hazardous Atomic that kills upon contact.
The games can be played in one of two ways. First, they can be bought with in-app purchases outright, for prices from $1.99-$4.99 depending on the game. This unlocks them permanently, and unlocks their leaderboards and achievements functionality. The other way is to play them with Play Coins. This is similar to an actual arcade, where one coin gets one play of the game. Thankfully, Play Coins are going for less than quarters are nowadays, as $0.99 buys 10 coins. The player also gets one free Play Coin per day that can be spent on any game. This setup is similar to an app that Capcom put out last year.
While these aren’t exactly games that are the pinnacle of Namco’s arcade catalog, these are games that have been reissued at times in other collections, including the Namco Museum series of games on the consoles. There also is the potential for more games to be added; the requirement for 4th generation devices or later seems to indicate that these are straight-up emulations, not port jobs, which would make adding new games a hypothetical breeze. This is also a universal app, unlike the Capcom app. Namco Arcade is available now as a free download.
Namco has brought Load Inc.’s arcade-style racer Mad Tracks to iOS. Initially released for PC in 2006 and Xbox Live Arcade in 2007, this racer has players controlling miniaturized cars through environments like mini-golf courses, and those Hot Wheels tracks with the crazy loops in them. As well, players can use powerups like turbo boosts, shields, and missiles to help outrace their opponents most effectively. The game also supports live multiplayer for up to 4 players simultaneously, either through local wifi or over the internet. As is all the rage in mobile gaming business models these days, the game is now a free to play title. Players earn “Mad Points” for succeeding in races and for completing challenges. These points can then be spent on unlocking new tracks, cars, and race powerups. Of course, the Mad Points can be purchased with real-world money outright as well. Mad Tracks is now available as a universal app.
When Katamari Amore released, it came with the promise that more content would be added to the game beyond its intital level pack. I am proud to report that Namco are not liars, as a new level pack will be made available on Thursday, October 27th. The Time Trip pack features levels that send the Prince throughout history to collect thing for the ever-demanding King of All Cosmos. Six new levels are playable in Time Trial, Story, Exact Size Challenge, and Eternal modes. The pack will be available for $3.99, identical to the first pack, with one level’s Time Trial mode unlocked for free. As well, this pack will also feature a bonus mode based on a Namco game, and instead of another Pac-Man level – this time a Tekken-themed level is available. It’s something of an unexpected choice; what could be next? Soul Calibur? Mappy? Tower of Druaga? Toy Pop? The long-lost Pac-Man 2 game for 16-bit consoles? A Splatterhouse level? I don’t think I would even want to see that.
Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory, originally developed by Revo Solutions for Windows Phone 7, has made its way to iOS by way of publisher Namco. This aerial combat game, set during World War I, has players dogfighting with their opponents across 12 single-player campaign levels and 100 individual Dogfight Missions. The game, which is a universal app, supports up to 8 players in online multiplayer modes with free-for-all, team deathmatch, defend the base, and capture the flag game modes. These modes can also be played offline against computer-controlled opponents.
The game also takes advantage of recently released hardware and iOS 5 features. A5 devices owners will get HDR rendering, light bloom effects, and light refraction through raindrops. As far as iOS 5 features go, the game supports AirPlay mirroring with controls and HUD displayed on the device screen with the game action displayed on the wireless display. As well, the game supports iCloud for game save synchronization, and Twitter integration.
This week, June 13-17, 148Apps announced that is will be one of this year’s Muther of All Hackathons media sponsors. “148Apps is proud to be a media sponsor of the Muther of All Hackathons coming up next weekend in Mountain View, CA. The goal of this hackathon is quite ambitious, they hope to develop 100 mobile applications in just 24 hours!” writes 148Apps Founder Jeff Scott. And, as part of a special promotion to mark the occasion, we’ll be giving away ten free passes to the Hackathon. Click here for all the details.
In other news, with Father’s Day looming ever closer, Namco have slashed their prices across over twenty applications, including PAC-MAN and Isaac Newton’s Gravity. “If there is one thing that everyone loves about Father’s Day it is spending a little quality time with their parents, right?” quips Blake Grundman, contributor at 148Apps. “Okay, so maybe some of us may not be as eager to spend quality time bonding with our parental units, so why not give your Dad a game or two instead?” The full list, available here, represents a temporary price cut that will be reversed after the big day – so grab your copies now!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-01-21 :: Category: Games
On the application front, the Editor’s Choice badge was awarded to Vice President Al Gore’s interactive book, Our Choice. “This app will not only inform, but also help readers become proactive in the fight to save Earth. Eco-warriors, tech junkies, and readers alike should celebrate Our Choice, it’s interactive reading as never before seen on iOS” writes Lisa Caplan, who awarded the application five stars for its flawless user interface and iPhone integration. Our Choice is available for $4.99, and can be downloaded by following the link below.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-04-28 :: Category: Books
With SEGA‘s announcement to move their console titles Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing to the iOS platform, Blake Grundman had a hands-on with upcoming application. “If what I played was any indication, players will want everything you can snag. Oh, and did I mention multiplayer? There will be both local and online multiplayer available at launch that will accommodate for matches between folks on both iPad and iPhone.” Coming soon.
Favorite Four took a turn to board games this week, as Kevin Stout examines the most enjoyable turn-based games available to download. RISK, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Game Table all made it to the mix. See the full run-down here. Remember that iOS 5 will bring Game Center support to turn-based games, meaning the titles above, and others of the same concept, can be played through Apple’s official social gaming network.
Finally, Episode 89 of The Portable Podcast is now available to download, featuring special guests Colin Walsh of Celsius Game Studios, Gavin Bowman of Retro Dreamer and Peter Bibey of Strapped to a Meteor Studies. Host Carter Dotson discusses iOS 5 and the future of development on the platform.
That’s it for this week – be sure to check back soon for all your latest iOS news!
If there is one thing that everyone loves about Father’s Day it is spending a little quality time with their parents, right? Okay, so maybe some of us may not be as eager to spend quality time bonding with our parental units, so why not give your Dad a game or two instead? The good folks over at Namco are making this an even more cost effective solution by announcing a special Father’s Day Sale.
In case you couldn’t tell, that is a massive chunk of the Namco’s iOS line-up, all marked down by at least half in most cases. There are many solid titles in that list, so give it a look and see what strikes you, or your father’s fancy.
Spring is in the air, and Namco Bandai is celebrating with a sale. From Friday, May 6 through Monday, May 9, take advantage of markdowns on some of the company’s biggest iOS games. Below is a full list of games that will be on sale but please note that some or all games may only be on sale within the US iTunes store.
That’s right folks, the scourge of the kindergarten playground is back and this time it has manifested itself on the the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. Mothers lock up your daughters and fathers try to warn your sons about the newest outbreak of this horrible condition that has now advanced beyond being a more than just a figment of your imagination into an actual iOS game.
In what looks to be fun for the entire family, players have to gather stars and dodge cooties, as they attempt to clear every stage. Following the Angry Birds trend, three stars are the goal, but just remember to avoid those noxious kisses, because everyone knows that they are super gross!
Easily the best part about the game is that it is currently on sale for free until May 1st, so be sure to download it before all of your friends get infected. Next up, I want to option the rights to a kindergarten version of Pac-Man and call it “Chill Pills.” You know where to send the royalty checks, Namco.
Namco Bandai’s newest game sounds…well, a bit wacky. Entitled “Bird Zapper!”, the game enlists players to help Skippy the Squirrel, who is enraged by the birds who short-circuited his music player. A bit of a complicated premise, yes, but the end result is easy to understand: the birds are squatting on the power lines, and with a swipe of your finger, you can knock them off!
Swiping like-colored birds will send them toppling from the power lines, and some birds will provide special bonuses or attacks. The more birds you dethrone, the higher your score. The power lines, and their birds, are set up in a grid-like arrangement. (Be sure to look at the screenshots; the graphics are bright and detailed, despite just featuring cartoon birds.) Because of the way the power lines are laid out, Bird Zapper! actually resembles a match-3 game like Bejeweled more than anything else, which is somewhat unfortunate. How many Bejeweled clones do we need? However, Namco hopes that it will still stand out.
Bird Zapper! will ship with three different play modes. In Survival, you swipe as fast as you can until your “power meter” is depleted. In Blitz, the goal is to reach the highest score in sixty seconds. Finally, Zen mode has no restrictions or time limits.
While Bird Zapper! has not yet been released, the website lists it with a “March 2011″ release date, so we expect to see this new title take flight soon. Namco plans to release Bird Zapper! as a universal app with both iPhone and iPad versions for $0.99, while an Android version will ship later for the same price.
It’s time to fire up your engines and prepare your Dig Dug decals, as Namco is bringing Ridge Racer Accelerated to the iPad later this month, after the game’s iPhone release last year. This latest version in the venerable arcade racing franchise focuses not just on trying to cross the finish line faster than your opponents, as per standard racing game procedure. You also have to master drifting technique, which fills up your nitrous meter, which you can then use to deploy speed boosts when you need them. The game features 57 unlockable vehicles, 11 courses playable both forwards and backwards, and 5 game modes, including a Game Center Time Attack mode. That sound you hear is Kaz Hirai being very excited about this racing series, which has amazingly almost been around for 2 decades now, coming to the iPad in full-screen, high-resolution glory.
The interesting thing about Ridge Racer Accelerated for the iPad is that it will be released as a freemium app – it will be free to download, include 3 cars, one course, with Time Attack and Game Center ranking modes available for free, and will cost $9.99 in-app to unlock the full app. This is Namco’s fourth freemium game release for the iPad, following Time Crisis 2nd Strike HD, Lost in Time: The Clockwork Tower and House of Glass. It appears as if this model is starting to pique the interest of major publishers, especially on Namco’s side, as this is their second release that has been freemium.
It would be interesting to see if this is a potential future business model for games on the iPad, as it seems to have drawn raised interest on this platform, between NimbleBit’s Dizzypad HD, One Man Left’s Tilt to Live HD, and now Namco seems to be pushing the freemium model with their iPad titles. Is there something about the platform that encourages more business model experimentation? Are iPad users buying apps in different ways than what the iPhone/iPod touch userbase tends to consume apps? Between these titles and Gameloft testing the model out over on the iPhone side of the App Store, it’ll be curious to see how consumers react to it and if we continue to see it used down the road. Ridge Racer fans will get to express their opinion on the model later this month when Ridge Racer Accelerated HD hits the iPad.
Namco, of worldwide PAC-MAN fame, is having a huge iOS Christmas sale that will last until January 3rd. With a ton of apps that are going for $0.99 and $1.99, there’s just no reason for people to not play the heck out of all the Namco games they can get their hands on. Enough talk though, here’s the Christmas sale!
House of Glass – in-app purchase lowered to $2.99 BIT.TRIP BEAT Blitz – in-app purchase levels lowered to $0.99
BIT.TRIP BEAT – $0.99
BIT.TRIP.BEAT was definitely one of my favorite retro experiences over the past year. Taking the classic Pong game and pumping in some heavy interactive beats and crazy graphics, BIT.TRIP.BEAT will definitely entertain anyone looking for an extremely stylish retro gaming remix. It won’t haunt your Pong loving dreams like Be2: Escape From Pongland, but it is definitely a game worth playing.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-09-30 :: Category: Games
BIT.TRIP BEAT HD – $0.99 Isaac Newton’s Gravity – $0.99 Mishap – $1.99 Mishap for iPad – $1.99
More Brain Exercise with Dr. Kawahsima – $1.99
Dr. Kawashima is the pioneer of tying brain exercise to video games with the huge success of Brain Age on Nintendo DS. After selling millions of copies of his book, many more millions of copies of his branded game on the DS, Namco decided to bring the brain training guru to the App Store. More Brain Exercise isn’t quite as advanced as Brain Age, but if brain training is what you are looking for you’ve come to the right place. At this discounted price you definitely won’t be disappointed.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-10-21 :: Category: Games
More Brain Exercise with Dr. Kawahsima HD – $1.99 Mr. Driller – $0.99
Ms. PAC-MAN – $1.99
Ms. PAC-MAN, whether you like it or not, was the very first game to tie into Apple’s Game Center. While I prefer regular PAC-MAN, gamers looking to capture a bit of gaming history can download the game and attempt to crack the global top 50 list… a list littered with hard core gamers that were patiently waiting for other games to populate the Game Center system. Good luck! The competition is stiff.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2008-07-11 :: Category: Games
PAC-MAN – $1.99 PAC-MAN for iPad – $1.99 PAC-Match Party – $0.99 PAC-Match Party HD – $0.99 Pole Position: Remix – $0.99 Pool Pro Online 3 - $0.99 Pool Pro Online 3 for iPad – $0.99 Star Trigon – $0.99
Tamagotchi: ‘Round the World – $0.99
Tamagotchi? In the App Store? As an app reviewer I feel like I should hang my head in shame, but as an adult stuck in the late 90′s, all I can say is O.M.G. The App Store’s description says that I can “Eat, dance, play and even poop your way to a happier and healthier planet!” Perfect.
OpenFeint has just announced its newest iOS venture, Game Channel. The new service promises to offer lots of great features, including a free game of the day spotlight that will help users discover great free apps they might have otherwise missed. The main draw of Game Channel though is going to be Fire Sale, a new service which is taking the Groupon model of group sales and bringing it to iOS.
According to OpenFeint, Fire Sale will present a premium app that is going on sale every week. Much like Groupon, users who are interested in buying the game at a discounted price can vote, and when enough votes are reached the price will drop. Fire Sale will then send out a push notification to everyone who voted on the app, letting them know the title is available at a discount. The first game going on sale is Jaws from Bytemark Games, and users can start voting on the title on December 17 at 12:01 am PST.
“We have a motivated community that has proven time and again that they’ll come back for great deals. This happens every day with Free Game of the Day,” says Jason Citron, CEO of OpenFeint. “Fire Sale is a truly social, community-based promotion, that is a perfect way for game developers to get their games downloaded.”
So how well will this new feature go over? That largely depends on the quality of apps offered and how deep the discounts go. For instance, Jaws is currently available for $2.99 and will drop to $0.99, is that good enough for consumers? Of course, the price can’t go much lower than that so the quality of the game will likely play a major factor in many potential buyers’ decisions.
We’ll also have to keep an eye out on which publishers opt to support the program, as that will be a big determining factor. If OpenFeint can convince major players like Chillingo/EA, Namco and Gameloft to come aboard then things should go very well, but if the big companies decide to sit this one out then the appeal of Fire Sale may be quite limited. In any case, it will be very interesting to see if this group sale model can catch on for iOS. Could it be possible that we’re witnessing a revolution in digital distribution?
In the event some beloved friend or family member gives you the gift of an iTunes gift card Namco has some good ideas on how to spend it as the company is offering three brand-new, high-profile games just in time for the holidays. And even if you don’t have free money coming your way then go ahead and buy them anyway, because they all look pretty great.
First up is the newly-released Puzzle Quest 2, which takes the same addictive gameplay as the original and gets rid of most of the balancing issues and the annoying AI cheating. Yeah, the developers deny to this day that the game cheated, but considering how much more fair matches in Puzzle Quest 2 are when compared to the original, we’re pretty sure they did something. The game’s been available on other outlets such as Xbox Live and Nintendo DS for a little while now, but we’re very happy to see it finally come to iOS.
Also currently available is Letter Labyrinth, which takes the traditional jumbled-letter word game and throws in a healthy dose of Pac-Man. The game also features a Calculation mode where you can work with numbers and equations rather than letters, and if Pac-Man eating math equations doesn’t start raising test scores then nothing will.
Last but not least is the all-new Bit.Trip Beat Blitz, which brings the addicting and supremely challenging Bit.Trip gameplay with some fun new wrinkles. The game features some brand new power-ups, and is free to download. Of course, you’ll have to upgrade to get access to all the levels and content, but by that time you’ll be so hooked it won’t even matter.
So we give thanks to Namco for dropping some serious holiday joy on all of us with a bunch of awesome new games. I will personally be enjoying all these titles while waiting for flights and sitting on planes as I head to and from my annual pilgrimage home. I just hope I don’t get so frustrated with Bit.Trip that I end up hurling my iPod out of a plane at 30,000 feet.
Just in time for the big Splatterhouse remake scheduled to land on game consoles November 23, Namco has announced that an iPhone remake of the original game will land on the iPhone and iPod Touch November 18. The iOS version will not be a port of the new game launching on consoles, but rather a remake of the original Splatterhouse arcade game launched back in 1988. Prepare to lead Rick through West Mansion in search of his lost love as though it was the very first time.
Namco is promising six weapons to use against Hell’s minions across the span of seven stages. The game will also include a new Splatter Rush Mode where players try and hold their ground for as long as possible against wave after wave of monsters.
Splatterhouse was once considered a rather controversial title due to the amount of violence, blood and gore which seemed to constantly overwhelm the game screen. Nowadays the game’s pixelated and simplistic depiction of decapitation may seem tame, but we’re sure that the console editions launching the week after the iPhone edition will rekindle that debate.
Though Splatterhouse wasn’t warmly received by critics back when it originally launched, it seems like a perfect iOS game. The simple combat and short levels should translate nicely to a touchscreen, and the retro visuals likely won’t be much of a strain on the iPhone’s battery. All-in-all, seems like a pretty nice fit.
As mentioned before the game launches on November 18, and will retail for $2.99. It’ll be a nice warm-up for those excited for the console release or who just really want to revisit a game they may have forgotten about over the past couple decades. Besides, who doesn’t love a dude in a hockey mask wielding a machete?
Bloodmasque -ActionRPG- hit a new milestone by reaching half a million downloads. To celebrate, Square Enix has made the game available to download for free until midnight on December 16. Users can also enjoy the new special holiday edition of the Hunter’s Gauntlet where players pursue Rudolf the Red and Holly Mistletoe.