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Adam Creighton, Computer and Video Gaming (Subscribe)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Namco Bandai acquiring D3 Publishing

Interesting. Namco Bandai has already reached agreement to get 70%, stake in D3 Publishing, and have made their intentions clear they want the other 30%.

Like Square-Enix, Namco Bandai is looking to expand Westward content, and they get that out of the box (in a compelling way) with a bunch of the D3 commercial and casual franchises (Puzzle Quest, anyone?).

Backing up a bit -- why the acquisition in the first place?

Besides being a good move for Namco Bandai for the stated reason of Westward expansion with development and publishing resources and IP (games catalogue), Namco Bandai is more than just about games, and D3 is more than just about games (though that’s their lion’s share).

Namco Bandai is games, animation, and toys (sister spinoff company Nacmo Ltd. (“Namco 2”) is about arcades, theme parks, and R&D; and there are several other Group Companies; etc.).

D3 is about Games, and Music, and Publications, so it’s a good match as far as diversification goes, but it’s not “too odd”. And since the Music and Publications side aren’t primary for D3, they’re easier to divest or terminate after poaching any resourcing that does contribute positively to the acquisition (making cuts to support core business and/or placate shareholders without negatively impacting core business, etc.).

From the acquisition, Namco Bandai also has a goal of “more innovation and providing more efficiency through shared use of technology such as game engines.”

D3 also owns middleware provider Vicious Cycle Software (Ben 10, the Vicious Engine built in service of the Matt Hazard franchise, , etc.).

For obvious reasons, I'm particularly curious as to what they do with this acquisition offering.

A few scenarios (and they could be either / or, combinational, etc.):
  • Existing titles continue forward – I don’t think Namco Bandai will want to change tech in games in production unless they want to significantly redo their timelines, which -- particularly due to the current economic conditions -- I would think they won't do. They'll either stay on task with potential revenue makers or cancel titles. Like everyone else, they need to desperately accelerate revenue for promising titles (for themselves and for shareholders) and (in this case) shore up acquisition bleed.
  • Vicious Cycle becomes internal tech – Obviously, this acquisition means the Vicious Engine becomes internal tech, which could cause problems with licensing externally in the future, effectively removing them from the middleware playing field (possibly). Witness Electronic Arts's purchase of Criterion's RenderWare (though there's more to that). Or look at Intel's acquisition of the Offset engine (I'm still fascinated to see what comes out of that).
  • Hard times for Vicious? – Keep in mind the acquisition is for D3, the parent company for D3 Publishing, the parent company to D3 Publishing US, the parent company of Vicious Cycle, which has the Vicious Cycle Studio, Monkey Bar Games, Vicious Cycle Engine middleware and licensing division, etc. And the Vicious Engine is already used for only a fraction of the overall parent companies' and subsidiaries' titles.

    Far be it from me to wish ill will on any people, but there is a scenario that says Namco Bandai could spin out different parts of the acquisition that aren't core to Namco Bandai. This could create opportunities or challenges for Vicious, but it would mean they would no longer have the benefits of a parent company for shoring up revenue, a given distribution pipeline, etc. I expect this scenario (if it’s even realized), to be a longer tailing affair.

    And not necessarily related just to Vicious, but if Namco Bandai is not able to get the other 30% stake in the acquisition, I would see them being even more aggressive about the prioritization of their portion of D3’s business affairs.

And if I were running Namco Bandai?

I’d probably split up development resources across other Namco Bandai development projects, seat more Namco Bandai leadership into D3 Namco Bandai Publishing (North America) side of the house, and distribute the Vicious Cycle Engine team (functionally and / or geographically) in support of development projects, and possibly to Namco 2 for R&D.

Oh, and I’d probably try to buy Funimation and Funcom (for both film/commercial animation and game development/publishing). But that's me thinking with my Big Boy World Domination Acquisition pants on.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Penny Arcade doesn't hate Gamebryo

(Ergh. There are so many things wrong with that faux endorsement, and I realize I'm setting myself up to be possibly harpooned by the brilliantly snarky (yet biting) barbs of Gabe and Tycho, but they've given me a launching point.)

I'm tickled Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, is doing so well (though the game's Halloweenie Website hurts my eyes).

As I've said before,
"I would characterize it as that new breed of title that is high production value, great bang-for-the-buck, and innovating under new challenging models of budget and timeline constraints. You should play this game."
Given how I feel about the game and the developer, I'm even more tickled the Gamebryo logo splashes at the game start up.

If possible, I'm even more more stoked Penny Arcade (or at least Tycho) loves the game. Not surprised, per se, because I think they like capable indie devs (and because I use "per se" quite a bit), but it's nice to see PA's appreciation for the game at PAX extending to a gushing about the "voice acting, production values, pretty much everything about it."

There's a free demo of the game, but at twenty bones to get a good game and support a good dev, you can save yourself a step by just buying the game.

Secondly, I'm regularly ridiculed at the office for my proclamation of love fanboy ardor for the Blood Bowl franchise -- So what? It's fantasy sports in an other-kind-of-fantasy candy shell, with gibbage filling. And now there's going to be a proper interactive video game for said gibbage-filled fantasies candy. And Tycho doesn't hate it.

(I'm sooo stoked for this game.)

And neither with Defense Grid nor Blood Bowl do Jerry or Mike (crap; broke the fourth wall) subject Gamebryo to their brand of intellectual belittlement.

So, that's something.

(Oh, and "gibbage-filled fantasies candy", "gibbage-filled candy", "candy with gibbage filling", and derivatives are (c) Copyright 2009 Adam Creighton.)

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