Bandai Namco Amusement “Teams Up”
Partnerships & A Passion for Fun Drives Development of New Games
While it may be cliché that “teamwork makes the dream work,” Bandai Namco Amusement America takes it to a new level not only within its own team, but as it partners with other companies in the industry.
Execs there say the unique nature of the amusement business, which “exists purely to create fun experiences and memories,” affords them the opportunity to set aside what might normally be cutthroat competition to instead focus on what creates the most fun for consumers.
From Bandai Namco’s development companies, amusement machine divisions and operations group that does location-based entertainment – everything revolves around the goal of being the “global leader in providing fun.”
Their U.S.-based Wood Dale, Ill., team, which concentrates on the design, development and manufacturing of products for the world market, is also responsible for localization of group products, as well as parts sales and customer service for North and South America.
“At Bandai Namco, we can create a concept, design it, build it and put it on test all within a short radius from us. This is huge for making new and innovative products,” said Nate Nissen, the creative project manager who’s also part of the research and development team. “I think our team of younger employees mixed with industry veterans has given us some unique ideas, a fresh perspective and a way to apply them with proven techniques. In addition, our long-term relationships have provided opportunities to work with some of the other great companies in our industry.”
One of the newest examples of an amusement machine made in partnership with another company is Red Zone Rush, which is now shipping.
A four-player football game leveraging the coveted NFL Players Association license, Red Zone Rush came about through a trade show conversation between BNAA’s senior VP Frank Cosentino and Andamiro USA’s President Drew Maniscalco. Andamiro had secured the players association license for its own NFLPA Super Star Football Coins.
Cosentino recalled the history of how Red Zone Rush came to be: “I was at a trade show talking to Drew and he asked me if we ever considered doing a multiplayer version of Goal Line Rush (a previous single-player BNAA title). I started to laugh, reached for my phone and showed him a concept drawing of the exact project he was talking about. I had on my agenda to talk to him about using the NFLPA license (which he was using on the NFLPA Super Star coin game) to make the very same game. Sometimes things are just meant to be.”
Red Zone Rush features dozens of mini footballs labeled with different letters and ticket values on a rotating playfield. In the middle of the playfield is an NFLPA licensed football player that is operated by the player ready to help “rush” the footballs into the endzone.
The player presses the button on the control panel and the football player rushes forward, pushing any footballs in the way onto the endzone platform. The letters on each football combine to spell “TOUCHDOWN.” If players skillfully get all of these letters, they’ll receive a super ticket bonus.
Several footballs are labeled “CARD,” which allow for players to win a collectable trading card in one play. Players can collect all eight offensive player trading cards for a ticket bonus, all eight defensive player trading cards for a ticket bonus or all 16 for a “SUPER” bonus. Once the game completes, the endzone platform tilts up and places the footballs back onto the rotating playfield.
While it previewed at Bowl Expo over the summer, many will see this new game at IAAPA for the first time. For a few lucky test locations, this game as already proven to be an overall “top 5 earner” since first appearing back in May.
Red Zone Rush, however, wasn’t the first time these two companies collaborated. They previously worked together to create the hugely successful DC Super Heroes 4-player coin pusher, following that up with the more recent and compact 2-player version, said Cosentino.
“We had such great teamwork and success from working with Andamiro on DC Super Heroes that it was a no-brainer to work together on another project,” Cosentino said. “We were very fortunate to be thinking of the same game idea at the same time.”
Added Maniscalco, “I always liked Bandai Namco’s 2014 Goal Line Rush redemption game and believed Andamiro’s NFL Players Association license could be integrated into the design of an enhanced version.”
One of the longest running BNAA development partnerships produced another hit game this year as they worked with George Dell and the team at Dell Electronics to create Jumbo Jumpin’, the larger, big-brother sequel to Jumpin’ Jackpot.
“Starting with an iconic title like Jumpin’ Jackpot has its challenges as we needed to make sure the game offered so much more than just a size upgrade,” Cosentino said. “So, the process of coming up with new types of gameplay enhancements, service improvements to make the game much more tech-friendly and visual updates to make it stand out in current locations became the focus of the project.”
Nissen added, “Working on Jumbo Jumpin’ was a blast. It was great because Dell Electronics was on my way into the office, so if we would have a board revision or a new concept or idea to have George program, I would just swing by there in the morning on my way into the office.”
Bandai Namco also has been searching for resources outside of the amusement industry. One example is the partnership with U.K.-based AISolve, which started primarily in the medical technology training field prior to branching into out-of-home entertainment.
BNAA teamed up with AISolve to distribute their WePlayVR virtual reality arena. The latest game, We Bare Bears, was shown at this spring’s Amusement Expo.
“We are constantly working on new ideas and fun concepts behind the scenes with different partners,” Nissen said. “With AISolve, we have something very fun and exciting coming that allows you to play a redemption game completely through dancing.”
That game may be ready for IAAPA, but Nissen added that attendees will have to stop by the Bandai Namco booth to see for sure.
The partnerships don’t end at product design and development. They’ve enjoyed a long-running partnership for cabinet design and manufacturing with Fun Company out of Necedah, Wis.
“We have been working with Fun Company for over a decade now and have had tremendous success together,” Cosentino said. “Combining the years of experience they have in game cabinet design with our creative design people allows us to make something special together.”
Fun Company is responsible for manufacturing video games like Maxi Tune and Mario Kart Arcade GPDX cabinets, redemption games like Jumbo Jumpin’ and Whack’em Funky Gators, and the entire line up of Pac-Man Pixel Bash and other home rec-room products.
“It’s really great because whenever we want to discuss making a change to a cabinet or doing something new, we know we can just hop on a video conference or jump in the car and be there in a few hours and sit down with the guys to nail out a new cabinet or game concept,” said Nissen. “I can’t thank those guys enough for the extra hours they’ve had to spend to deal with some of our more crazy cabinet ideas and concept revisions.”
It sure seems like Fun Company hasn’t minded any of the challenges or craziness that’s come along with the work. Their Don Teske said, “Fun Company has been honored and blessed to work with Namco and many others over the past 25 years. Namco is truly a world-class company and their team is nothing less than spectacular. We look forward to working together for many more years.”
While BNAA and their partners create the products that put smiles on the faces of players all over the world, it’s their staff that puts smiles on the FEC owner and operator faces.
As you can see from the photo on the cover, they are always hustling to get the jobs done. Pictured on this month’s front cover are members from all of their departments: “From the executive offices to the warehouse and everything in between, nothing gets accomplished without every single one of us doing their part.”