Bandai Namco on the hunt for mobile mergers and acquisitions
Japanese publisher hopes to expand mobile business as it pursues global growth strategy
Mobile studios could find a powerful new partner - or, indeed, parent - in the form of Bandai Namco Entertainment.
The publisher is currently gearing up for a growth plan that aims to make its portfolio more globally appealing, acknowledging that it has become "too Japanese-centric", according to European VP of digital and marketing Hervé Hoerdt.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Hoerdt says that while the overall rewards remain bigger on console, due to the dominance of a few select IP on mobile, the smart device market is one area where he's keen to expand the company's development talent.
"We're really open to any kind of partnership, even M&A, acquisitions or taking share in any kind of company on the mobile side," he tells us. "We are ready to invest in any kind of new IP for mobile or PC."
That's not to say we should expect Bandai Namco to be snapping up major established names within the mobile arena. Instead, the publisher has its sights set on promising new talent as well as companies that go beyond games development.
"The vision is not to buy big companies," says Hoerdt. "When you buy a studio, there's usually a lot of talented people but there will be a certain amount of key people, like an amazing artist or writer. Sometimes if the acquisition is not working out, [they leave] and your acquisition is losing value.
"We are ready to invest in any kind of new IP for mobile or PC"
"It's risky. I'm more thinking about medium-sized companies and not necessarily the studio that's doing the final output, but maybe something more upstream, such as a company working on tools that can be used by different business units.
"And not necessarily just in games. Perhaps someone who is making something in edutainment or an app that helps people maintain their brain activity... we'd love to explore this opportunity."
Bandai Namco hopes to reach a stage where at least 50% of its games output comes from outside Japan. While this will still make the publisher relatively reliant on its home territory, it should nonetheless improve its global presence - and the firm is looking beyond the usual territories where the talent pools have largely been tapped.
"At some point, I'd love to work with people in the Middle East, maybe on some kind of local experience," says Hoerdt. "Console might be difficult, so maybe on PC or mobile. We'd love to partner with people in Africa and finance some mobile development there."
As Hoerdt says, the publisher is open to all kinds of partnerships, not just acquisitions. Notably, the firm unveiled a new deal with Life is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment last month, although details of the project remain under wraps for now.
Bandai Namco has a dedicated team that screens around 200 partnership opportunities per year, and while the publisher is keen to allow developers to follow their creative vision, Hoerdt advises that they should be open to the Japanese giant's input. After all, any partnership may be a significant deal for the studio, but it needs to fit within Bandai Namco's overall portfolio and strategy to warrant the publisher's faith and investment.
"The project Dontnod pitched us more than a year ago is completely different to the project we're working on today," Hoerdt explains by way of example. "But they're happy because we did this together in an iterative process.
"What I would love to have is a developer that is flexible enough to modify and adapt."