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Namco Bandai Partners Olivier Comte Pt. 1

VP on Test Drive, Enslaved and E3...

As expected, it's been all change behind the scenes this year at Namco Bandai Partners - formally Atari's PAL offices, before they were swallowed up by the Japanese Pac Man giant.

Luckily, that hasn't stopped a good crop of games hitting its release schedule. At the top of the pile is the promising Test Drive Unlimited 2 (read our preview), alongside excellent-looking Ninja Theory effort, Enslaved. Equally exciting is the prospect of The Witcher 2, followed by its other cash cow franchises Ace Combat - which is hitting PSP - and DragonBall.

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We recently sat down with Namco Bandai Partners VP Olivier Comte, who kindly answered our questions about the line-up, as well as the firm's plans for the future.

Check back later for part two, in which the exec discusses his company's E3 plans, as well as his controversial opinions on the DRM scene.

What's the next year going to be like for Namco Bandai then?

It's very complicated to predict the market and this has been reflected in the last few years by all the results announcements in the industry. I do think this year for us is going to be a year of stability. We made two important acquisitions last year; the first one was the distribution side of Atari and the second one was D3 Publisher. Now we integrate those companies and so I would say it's a year of stability.

In terms of strategy It's an important year because it's a year where the process of having different titles that aren't only Japanese coming to the market - it's very significant for us I think. We've launched Dead to Rights, we're launching Splatterhouse and we've got Enslaved as the flagship of the company, which means that for the first time the company is investing very much in Western development - not just Japanese.

Now we don't want to be seen only as a Japanese publisher capable of making Tekken and Dragon Ball, but now capable of making action adventure games, FPS, racing games etc. So this year is a year that we want to address many more audiences - the family and the hardcore - and in terms of lineup we do think this year we have some very, very nice work.

We have Demon Souls in June which was critically acclaimed in the US - we're working closely with Sony in Japan to bring it to Europe and we're launching a special edition only here. After we have a lot of titles; Dragon Ball, Ace Combat on PSP etc.

We have two flagship titles that will be very, very important for us - especially for UK - which are Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Enslaved. We are very, very optimistic about Enslaved. For me, it's come from the heart. This is a game I was expecting my company to develop since I arrived here. I'm a very big fan of Uncharted and we have to admit that it's in the mindset of games like that. The game has a unique atmosphere, the characters are fantastic... I love the game.

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How did your relationship with Ninja Theory come about? What do you think Namco Bandai can offer them that their prior partner, Sony cannot?

I think that it's completely different to work with a third-party publisher than with a first-party publisher. First we can offer the fact that they can develop on any platform - to address different audiences and to have a huge amount of potential sales.

A publisher is making many more games than a platform holder which means that we have experience in many, many genres. So I think we can bring another vision to videogames. Sony is making fantastic games - Uncharted was fantastic, Heavy Rain was fantastic - but they take their time to make the games, they focus on one or two games ever year but we have to manage many, many flagship games ever year.

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