Namco Limited (株式会社ナムコ Kabushiki gaisha Namuko) is a brand and corporate name used from 1971 to 2018 by two Japanese companies in the businesses of video games, game centers and theme parks. The name continues to be used outside of Japan by the subsidiary Namco USA.
|Kabushiki gaisha Namuko|
|Founded||June 1, 1955|
(now Bandai Namco Entertainment)
March 31, 2006
(now Bandai Namco Amusement)
|Products||List of Namco games|
|Parent||Bandai Namco Holdings|
|Subsidiaries||Namco Enterprises Asia|
Namco Operations Europe
The original Namco Ltd. was founded in 1955 as Nakamura Seisakusho and changed its name to Nakamura Manufacturing in 1959. In 1971, Nakamura Manufacturing launched the Namco brand which became the company's name in 1977. In 2006, Namco absorbed the video game division of its sister company Bandai and formally renamed itself Namco Bandai Games. The same day, its existing amusement division split to form a new company called Namco Ltd which was subsequently renamed Bandai Namco Amusement Inc. in 2018.
Namco was a front-runner during the golden age of arcade video games. Pac-Man went on to become the best-selling arcade game in history and an international popular culture icon. Namco is also known for creating successful franchises such as Galaxian, Dig Dug, Xevious, Ridge Racer, Tekken, Ace Combat, Soulcalibur and Tales.
Masaya Nakamura founded the company as Nakamura Seisakusho Co., Ltd. in 1955. Based in Tokyo, the company started out by running children's rides on the roof of a department store in Yokohama. The business eventually expanded throughout the Tokyo area. In 1959, Nakamura Seisakusho underwent a name change to Nakamura Manufacturing Co, Ltd. Nakamura Manufacturing Company would later be used to form the acronym "Namco" as a brand name in 1971 which eventually became the company's own corporate name in 1977. In 1970, the company produced a coin-operated mechanical driving simulator called Racer.
Atari Japan, the Tokyo-based subsidiary of Atari, was struggling financially by 1974. General manager Hide Nakajima was left in charge of the company after his boss had quit. Nakajima claims that employees had been stealing money and that he had contributed funds from his personal savings in order to pay creditors and stave off bankruptcy. Though Nakajima wanted to try saving Atari Japan, owner Nolan Bushnell was already struggling to keep the parent company afloat due to undercapitalization and was looking to sell the Japanese subsidiary for some badly needed cash. Sega, at the time a manufacturer of pinball machines, offered to acquire Atari Japan for $50,000. Nakamura put in a bid for $800,000 and shocked others out of competition. The deal was finalized at $500,000 and Bushnell was glad to take it. Debts inherited from Atari Japan would take Nakamura two years to pay off, but the deal had also secured for him an exclusive license to distribute Atari's games in Japan for ten years. Nakamura would follow up by opening video arcades featuring Atari games.
Everyone thought [Nakamura] was mad when he paid so much for Atari, but it turned out to be a very wise investment.— Hide Nakajima, former vice president of Namco
Nakajima was promoted to vice president in 1978, and on his recommendation Namco opened a subsidiary, Namco America, in the United States. The location he chose was across the street from Atari's former headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. At the time, games were not released in the U.S. under the Namco label. Namco America existed mainly to license Namco's games to companies such as Atari and Midway Games for distribution in the U.S.
Namco's first original video game was Gee Bee (1978). It was Pac-Man (1980), however, that would become definitive of Namco's legacy, going on to become a fixture in popular culture. Galaga (1981), a follow-up to Galaxian, was one of the most successful sequels of the era. Dig Dug (1982), Xevious (1982), and Pole Position (1982) continued Namco's success in establishing iconic franchises during the Golden Age. During this period, Namco published video games for home consoles and personal computer under the Namcot brand name.
In 1985, after the video game crash, and after previously having been sold to Warner Communications, Atari had been split into two corporate entities: Atari Corporation, which took over the home computer and console hardware business; and Atari Games, which retained the arcade game business. Namco America acquired a controlling interest in Atari Games for $10 million, against the advice of their accountants at Price Waterhouse. Disagreement over how to run the Atari Games subsidiary led to a falling out between Nakamura and Nakajima. Nakamura considered Atari to be a competitor. Back in Japan, Namco still held distribution rights for Atari's games, and Nakamura refused to sell them to other arcades. Nakamura also resented sharing ownership of Atari Games with Warner. Nakajima grew increasingly frustrated with his boss, and in 1987 the two arrived at a means to part ways: Namco would sell part of its interest in Atari Games to Nakajima and the Atari Games employees, and the rest back to Warner. Nakajima resigned from Namco to head Atari Games.
Namco was the industry's first manufacturer to develop and release a multi-player, multi-cabinet competitive game, Final Lap, in 1987. This game allowed up to eight players to compete when four two-player cabinets were linked in a simple network. By 1988, the company's capital exceeded 5.5 billion Yen. In 1989, another racing simulation game, Winning Run, was released; that same year, the company's expertise with driving simulation matured with the development of the Eunos Roadster Driving Simulator, a joint venture with the Mazda Motor Corporation, followed by an educational program for traffic safety developed with Mitsubishi. In a bid to win over a new kind of audience, Namco started up business for the elderly and the disabled with "Talking Aid" in 1985.
By 1989, games for the Nintendo Entertainment System accounted for 40% of Namco's sales. Namco along with Hudson Soft were the first licensees for the system in Japan and both companies had privileged terms from Nintendo that other publishers didn't have. In the case of Namco, it had the right to manufacture its own cartridges. However, upon renewal of the license, these special terms were revoked, prompting Nakamura to publicly criticize Nintendo for monopolistic behavior. In addition, Nakamura announced that Namco would support Sega's Mega Drive/Genesis console, which eventually received most of the better productions the company developed for the home market in the 16-bit era.
In 1989, it was revealed that Namco was developing a true 16-bit game console inspired by the success of NEC's PC Engine, titled the Namco Super System. In its July 1989 issue, Electronic Gaming Monthly reported that "Namco has a machine comparable to the Super Famicom almost completed, but is unsure which way to market it with so many other game machines already in the marketplace." Namco decided to partner themselves with NEC to release their Super System as the PC Engine 2.
Later expanding into the amusement park business, Sennichimae Plabo was opened in Osaka, featuring a new concept of large-scale arcade amusement, and Namco Wonder Eggs, a theme park, was opened in Tokyo. Additional amusement parks were opened, including Namco WonderPark in London, Namco Wonder Park Sagamihara, and Namco Wonder City.
In 1993, Ridge Racer, a driving simulation game, entered arcades, featuring 3D computer graphics; the game was later released for the PlayStation. Another of the company's most famous games, Tekken, was released in 1994, which was also soon ported to the PlayStation. In 1995 the game Soul Edge (Soul Blade in the PAL region) was released. With its Tekken and Soul franchises, Namco has been dominating the 3D fighting game market. Some light gun games were also released such as Point Blank and Time Crisis.
In 1996, Namco acquired a controlling share of the Japanese film company Nikkatsu, but its interest would be sold during the merger with Bandai.
In September 2005, Namco merged with Bandai to form the holding company Namco Bandai Holdings, the third largest video game entity in Japan. On March 31, 2006, Namco's video game operations absorbed that of Bandai's, and the two companies' game production assets were spun off into Namco Bandai Games. From then on, the part of the company that was most closely associated with the Namco label would become Bandai Namco Games (now Bandai Namco Entertainment). The Namco Ltd. name was retained for a separate company established on March 31, 2006 that continued domestic operation of video arcades and amusement parks, and operated as part of Bandai Namco's Amusement Facility SBU.
On April 1, 2018, Namco Ltd was renamed Bandai Namco Amusement Inc. In the United States, Namco America had already been renamed Bandai Namco Amusement America in 2014. As part of the name change, Bandai Namco Amusement Inc. will take over the amusement machine business that was handled by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
International arcade operationsEdit
In 1977, Namco launched its international arcade subsidiary, Namco Enterprises Asia Ltd., in Hong Kong. Further expansion in Asia would follow in 1993 with Shanghai Namco Ltd., based in mainland China.
Namco purchased the arcade operations of Atari Games in 1990, renaming it Namco Operations Inc. With the purchase, Namco began its arcade management business in the United States. Namco Operations managed several large facilities in venues such as Pier 39 in San Francisco, California, and Church Street Station in Orlando, Florida.
In 1993, Namco purchased the Aladdin's Castle arcade chain from Bally and merged it with Namco Operations to form Namco Cybertainment Inc. The merger produced the largest arcade operator in the United States. Arcades were branded under the principal trade names of Aladdin's Castle and Cyberstation. Throughout the 1990s, NCI continued to merge or purchase several arcade companies. Chief among them was Edison Brothers Stores (operating under the Time-Out, Exhilirama, and SpacePort names) in 1996. Also in the late 1990s, Namco acquired Diamond Jim's and in the early part of the new century purchased Pocket Change America Inc.
The Bandai Namco merger had little effect on the Namco Cybertainment subsidiary, which continued its original mission of operating arcades in the U.S., although most of its mall-based arcades are now closed. It had been organized under the parent company's Amusement Facility SBU. On January 1, 2012, Namco Cybertainment Inc. was renamed as Namco Entertainment Inc. Namco Entertainment Inc. operated locations in nearly 1,000 locations throughout North America and the Caribbean including a growing number of mall locations along with partner locations including select locations for major chains such as AMC Theatres, Walmart, Caribbean Cinemas and Brunswick Zone. In 2015, Namco Entertainment once again changed name to Namco USA.
Namco USA's corporate offices reside in Wood Dale, Illinois, and is one of the last companies in the Bandai Namco Group to still use the Namco trademark in 2018. Its sister company, Namco America, which manufactures arcade cabinets for Bandai Namco Games arcade titles, relocated to Elk Grove, Illinois in 2008 and renamed Bandai Namco Amusement America in 2014.
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