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BANDAI NAMCO Holdings Inc.

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Interviews

Hajime Nakatani

Leveraging abundant human resources and strong technologies and production capabilities to create diverse entertainment

Hajime Nakatani President and Representative Director, BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc.

BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc. was established in 2012 when the development function was split off from BANDAI NAMCO Games Inc. (currently, BANDAINAMCO Entertainment Inc.). Today, BANDAI NAMCO Studios is a group of professional creative engineers that handle content planning, production, development, and operation. The company continually takes on the challenges of researching and creating new technologies, without limiting itself to existing titles. In this section of the newsletter, Hajime Nakatani, president of BANDAINAMCO Studios, discusses the company’s strengths and future outlook.

Would you describe BANDAI NAMCOStudios’ business activities?

Nakatani: BANDAI NAMCO Studios conducts planning and development of network content, home video games, arcade games, and other products. We principally work with titles launched by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment. In October 2018, our research, planning, and development functions in the areas of amusement facility content and amusement machines were split off to establish BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Lab Inc. Both companies will continue working together closely as we advance content development initiatives. We will implement multifaceted activities, such as developing home video games, arcade games, network content, and other products for a single title, as we did with TAIKO: DRUM MASTER and the Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. series.

What the key strengths of BANDAI NAMCO Studios?

Nakatani: In markets around the world, we are seeing a large number of products and services that leverage new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). In addition to the game development that we have been implementing, we are also responding to this trend by conducting R&D to further enhance and extend leading-edge technologies that are entirely new. This is one of our strengths. In addition, we have established an environment that enables us to implement thorough development activities that are focused on the production of high-quality content. For example, our in-house facilities include specialized sound effect and motion capture studios. Moreover, we also have an edge in termsof scale. We have a workforce of more than 1,000 people with a wide range of know-how. From planning and production to hardware/software prototyping and sound, visual, and art production, we can address diverse needs with comprehensive, flexible proposal and implementation capabilities.

A number of attention-getting titles have been launched.

Nakatani: Looking at this fiscal year, in home video games SOULCALIBUR VI from BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment was launched in October, and starting in December there are plans for multiple launches of major numbered titles, such as GOD EATER 3 and ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN. We hope that fans will enjoy experiencing the enhanced expression and game play that these titles offer. These are titles that will be rolled out worldwide, and accordingly our objective was to offer leading-edge content that can address global demand. To that end, the development of these games involved a wide range of engineers and companies. Looking at titles from outside the Group, we were in charge of the development of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a major Nintendo title for the Nintendo Switch that is scheduled for launch in December 2018. This title reflects the full use of our technical and production capabilities.

Developing home video games
Developing home video games

Are there other products that incorporate distinctive ideas from BANDAI NAMCO Studios?

Nakatani: We conducted the planning and development for two attractions opened by BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Inc. — Nigekiru at the VS PARK amusement facility, which was opened in April at EXPOCITY in Osaka, and Indoor Adventure Island Docodoco, which was opened in October at Tachikawa Takashimaya S.C. in Tokyo. Both of these attractions utilize projection mapping technology. The people working on these projects discussed how to use projection mapping, which is a visual technology, in order to maximize the fun of the attractions. We built a prototype of the attractions in-house, which were used for a cycle of repeated testing and improvement. In this way, we aimed to create fun attractions that can be enjoyed by a wide range of users. In addition, the BanaCAST (BANDAI NAMCO Character Streaming Technology) developed by BANDAI NAMCO Studios was used at a number of events. For example, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment held a mixed reality (MR) live event at the DMM VR THEATER for THE IDOLM@STER. Also, Ryo from the creators group supercell produced a live event by the virtual artist EGOIST. Our BanaCAST technology enabled the characters to be faithfully reproduced, so that it was almost as if they were really on the stage. By utilizing motion capture techniques and adding realtime character movements and voices, we were able to implement realistic interaction with customers at the venues.

Motion capture
Motion capture

Live event for THE IDOLM@STER using technologies from BANDAI NAMCO Studios
Live event for THE IDOLM@STER using technologies from BANDAI NAMCO Studios
©窪岡俊之 ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

Leveraging future-focused ambitions and ideas to take on the challenge of manufacturing products with distinctive strengths

What is the source of BANDAI NAMCO Studios’ diverse technologies and ideas?

Nakatani: I think it is our strong spirit of inquiry. Our mission includes searching around the world for new technologies without limiting ourselves to Japan. This is also one of the objectives of the BANDAI NAMCO Accelerator project, under which BANDAI NAMCO Studios advances projects. (BANDAI NAMCO Accelerator is a project that recruits and supports business ideas from startups.) New technologies are rapidly being created one after another, and we are always taking steps to foster the proposal of new projects. We are continually working to find interesting new things, research them, and figure out how to best match them up with the Group’s multiple content outlets. I think that those initiatives have taken shape.

What issues does BANDAI NAMCO Studios face?

Nakatani: The Group is now implementing full-scale overseas development initiatives. In this setting, we face the urgent task of building a foundation for the development of products that can capture the interest of customers around the world. To that end, in planning and development we need to work together with others in Japan and overseas who have high levels of technical skills, ideas, and planning capabilities. We will also strive to achieve further improvement in manufacturing. Rather than aiming for 100small hits, we will strive to create 10 mega-hits. By increasing the precision of mega-hit creation, we will be able to reduce manufacturing costs, and the funds that are freed up in that way can then be used for new development and marketing initiatives. To establish that type of favorable cycle within the company, we will implement the PDCA cycle and work to implement manufacturing that offers true value to customers, that is, manufacturing products with distinctive strengths.

What is your policy regarding work?

Nakatani: To give shape to the seeds of ideas and technologies, I think we must have ambitious, forward-looking objectives and then work energetically to realize those objectives. I think it is often the case that ideas which can be achieved easily don’t amount to very much in the end. Ideas are put through to a process of trial and error, which in turn results in the generation of new ideas and improvements that we can utilize. In this way, I think that for the first time we will be able to implement manufacturing in a manner that delights customers. When BANDAI NAMCO Studios was established, we announced that our motto would be Innovation through Creativity. This motto incorporates the idea that we want to leverage everyone’s creativity and foster innovation. When people hear the word innovation, they frequently think of large-scale reforms, but actually there are many historical examples of situations in which innovation was fostered through the accumulation of smaller ideas. I believe that we should aim to cultivate a corporate culture in which people are always actively discussing the ideas that fuel that process.

This article is an extract from the Newsletter, BANDAI NAMCO News, which was published in November 2018 and partially re-edited.