Interviews

Namco Bandai: '360 and PS3 still have great potential'

Japanese publisher on its line-up and gaming's future...

Barely a day goes by without someone in the industry ruminating on what the next Xbox or the PlayStation 4 may contain under its hood.

However, Namco Bandai is happy to let the next-next generation wait a while. The firm's got a plethora of stand-out games lined up for this year and beyond on both PS3 and 360 - including Dark Souls, Ace Combat and Soul Calibur V.

And last week, it made the heroic move of releasing an ACTUAL DECENT SHOOTER in the dry summer months where Zumba Fitness continues to wiggle manically atop the charts - in the shape of Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon.

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We caught up with Namco's UK marketing director Lee Kirton to talk about the publisher's year - and the short-term future of Microsoft and Sony's kit...

What is it about Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon that makes it stand out?
It's a B-movie shooter with big bugs, big open playgrounds, big action and big guns. It's the closest thing to Starship Troopers on console - and it's what I would call a 'proper video game'. It's addictive, fun, looks good and you can play online co op as well.

It's an unashamedly old school shooter. Are you confident that in an age of ever-similar action games, that's what gamers still want?
Well a market exists. It may not be up there in terms of development cost when compared to most triple-A FPS games and third-person shooters - but we looked at the sales of the first and noticed a cult audience exists.

We had more community input this time round so we have the opportunity to build a following and spread the word that the 'bugs are coming'. The RRP strategy in the UK has been important for us - we have a very competitive RRP of £29.99. If you shop about you'll find it for a lot less.

You're releasing it at a time when there are no bloody games on the market (!) and Zumba's dancing all over the charts. Do you think the industry's collective ignorance of the summer months may be a mistake?
I have to be careful when answering this, but personally I think that 'quiet' months exist when we should perhaps still be releasing games - yes. There used to be this idea that everyone went on holiday in June/July and that summer was not a great time to release a game. I disagree. If you want a game you'll play it whenever.

You're bringing EDF, Ace Combat and Dark Souls out on both 360 and PS3. Would Namco be interested in dealing with a console exclusive, or have those days gone?
We look at all opportunities in all areas of gaming. Our primary goal is to bring games to as many players as possible in the most effective way. I'm not sure if those days are gone or not, but it was amazing to be able to bring the successor to Demon's Souls to 360 as well as PS3. A big market in action RPGs exists on 360 and it's important for us to bring Dark Souls to as many current gen gamers as possible. Similarly, Assault Horizon delivers an Ace Combat to PS3 owners for the first time.

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You've also got Soul Calibur V coming this year. What's your view of the general health of the fighting genre?
I think the likes of SFIV and Tekken 6 have given the genre a much needed boost - you can also see that with the sales of both titles. We've also been lucky recently to have other publishers' efforts with Mortal Kombat and Capcom's continued fantastic Marvel titles. Streetfighter X Tekken and Tekken X Streetfighter were recently announced by Namco and we have other exciting news to follow later in the year too.

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