Sleeping dragon: Namco turns eyes east for FY2013

By Brenna Hillier
29 May 2012 09:13 GMT

After spending much of last year focused on the west, Namco Bandai looks set to turn its attention homewards for the coming year.

For the holidays, the publisher’s fronting a minimal line-up. This is wise: there’s no point playing war if you don’t have a nuke.

FY2012 was a big year for Namco Bandai. The publisher made a determined assault on the western triple-A market with a handful of major releases, and while it didn’t quite manage the triumphant storming we expected, it certainly didn’t fall flat. The Witcher 2 was a hit on both platforms, and Dark Souls and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon both managed over 1 million sales. Soul Calibur was less successful, shifting less than 700,000 units, and Armored Core V doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

There was no 3-5 million heavy-hitter despite undeniable successes, so perhaps that’s why the slate for the current fiscal year is looking Japan-centric. It’s worthwhile remembering that Namco Bandai held the largest slice of the Japanese market of any publisher earlier this year. The company releases dozens of Japan-only titles each year which regularly perform well on the local scene, and can afford to take a break from western triple-A launches while the next batch is cooking. Clever.

With that in mind, here’s what’s likely to interested westerners over FY2013 (ending March 31, 2013) and beyond. We’re probably see continued DLC support for Soul Calibur V, especially as we ramp towards EVO 2012, but Namco Bandai’s release schedule actually kicks off with a licensed title, Madagascar 3. The tie-in is likely to launch alongside the film in June and capitalise on desperate parental spending over the summer break.

After that, things go quiet for a little while, unless you’re a Gundam tragic; if you are, there are a number of import titles to jump on. Gundam Seed Battle arrives in June, and so does the free-to-play PlayStation 3 title Gundam Battle Operation. In August, expect Level-5’s adorable Gundam Age. Project X Zone, a collaboration with Capcom and Sega and developed by Monolith, seems unlikely to make it elsewhere: import it is.

Back to the west, Namco will have a fairly packed late summer. Sabre Interactive’s gravity-defying shooter, Inversion, will finally appear in July after a long series of delays.

In August, Namco Bandai will benefit from a deal to distribute City Interactive’s Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, and also bring hardcore to the PC elite with a new version of Dark Souls.

To top the month off we’ll see a European release of long-awaited RPG Tales of Graces F.

Watch on YouTube

Ni No Kuni. Stellar sales are unlikely, but the
Level-5 RPG already has western Japanophiles
crying into their imitation bento boxes.

Moving into the silly season, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 hits consoles in September. It’s the first Tekken release since 2009’s Tekken 6, unless you count Street Fighter x Tekken, which nobody with an Iron Fist tattoo does.

A couple of anime titles over the next few months keep Namco Bandai’s calendar full; Dragon Ball Z Kinect looks just mad enough to carry some cult status when it launches in October, while One Piece Pirate Warriors, a collaboration with Tecmo Koei, will probably sell well among both franchises’ fans in November.

For the holidays, the publisher’s fronting a minimal line-up. This is wise: there’s no point playing war if you don’t have a nuke. We’re only likely to see a Thundercats game on DS, and possibly the Japanese launch of the latest Dragon Ball Sparking title, although we probably won’t see it in the west for several months.

Beyond calendar 2012 things are extremely hazy – possibly because the publisher is tied up in Wii U releases and keeping quiet about other new hardware. We do know Level-5’s gorgeous Studio Ghibli collaboration Ni No Kuni should drop in the first quarter of calendar 2013, and the new Star Trek tie-in from Digital Extremes should launch before the film does, perhaps in May.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess, although the new Tales game looks pretty intriguing.

Namco Bandai won’t give up on its triple-A push after one year of solid, unspectacular sales. Expect the publisher to bring a flurry of reveals and announces as we approach the hardware transition.

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