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Namco Bandai's John Galloway

The Namco Bandai Partners VP outlines ambitious plans to be a top five publisher within five years

Earlier this year Atari announced that its planned long-term Distribution Partners sell-off had been brought forward significantly, and the business became wholly owned by Namco Bandai.

Here, the company's VP for the UK, Ireland and Nordic regions, John Galloway, explains how the company's aiming to become a top five publisher in the next three-to-five years. How has the business settled down in the past few months, following the conclusion of the Namco Bandai deal?
John Galloway

If you step back five or seven years, Atari's been distributing Namco Bandai product for that time as a distribution partner. Over the last 12-18 months, with David Gardner at the helm the focus for Atari has moved towards the online side of the business. Distribution was still going to be a part, but the product flow was going to be reduced, other than on the Distribution Partners side.

So the plan was hatched that Namco Bandai buy the distribution part of Atari. What that actually allows now is Atari to go off and focus 100 per cent on the online business, while Namco Bandai is now in the European market as a fully-fledged publisher and distributor.

Part of our business model is distributing our own products, and another is the Partners side of it, where especially outside of the UK we do distribute other people's products - for example, we've signed a pretty wide European deal with Bethesda, we distribute Codemasters in the Nordic region, and we've got various deals for various territories.

Obviously the UK market is slightly different because every publisher is in the UK, so there we focus solely on Namco Bandai products. So it's a very clean split - part of the deal is that we have the exclusive rights to any boxed product that Atari launch in the next five years, so we still have a link on the business side.

I came on board in February knowing this was going to happen, it's happened a little bit faster than I thought, but actually it's great - why wait? We know where we were going, let's get the deal done. All of the management team was in place from the distribution side, so Namco Bandai picked us up as a business unit. From their side, in 24 hours, they managed to get full distribution across Europe. How important is that European foothold for Namco Bandai? A number of Japanese publishers have made moves in that direction recently.
John Galloway

Well, from Namco Bandai's side, in their home market of Japan they are a major player. The weak link really was Europe, because they weren't here other than through distribution. So from their side as a company, if you're going to grow you have to grow your new markets - and Europe was a new market to them.

Obviously looking at other Japanese companies moving into European markets, Square have done well, and there's even a resurgence of Sega. Obviously they've looked at the market and seen there's an opportunity.

The exciting part is that it's not just Namco Bandai coming in with a stable product, getting closer to distribution, getting closer to retail, closer to journalists - it's actually the type of product flow as well, and we announced some exciting things at Gamescom which was very much aimed more at the European market than the Japanese market.

From Namco Bandai's side, that will certainly grow our share - and the plans are very aggressive. In the next three-to-five years we aim to be one of the top five publishers, and we're not going to do that by selling more of the current product. You need to look at new genres and franchises, and obviously ones the European consumers will like. That's obviously a great ambition to have, and it echoes a similar sentiment from Square Enix Europe - does it surprise you that two big players from Japan have come into the UK, and Europe, in such major ways in quick succession?
John Galloway

Surprise probably isn't the right word. My background is with EA, who I joined 15 years ago and I was with them through their growth in the European market. That's now changed, and Nintendo are a massive player in the market, Activision are as well, and the playing field is starting to level out a bit.

So for Namco Bandai to come in, it's probably the right time - there isn't one person owning 25 per cent of the market any more. There are much bigger players taking larger chunks. So I think, yes, every company's got to look for its growth - we mastered the Japanese market, we're in America and Europe was the weak link.

To come in with our own offices, our own products, new products and franchises - that's the exciting part. They are putting their money where their mouth is.

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