Irvine’s newest gaming giant is looking to level up its local presence with live events and partnerships across Southern California.
Japan-based gaming publisher Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., which is publicly traded overseas and valued at around $14 billion, earlier this year moved its U.S. video game and entertainment division, Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc. (BNEA), from Santa Clara to Irvine, along with an affiliated toys and collectables unit.
The company’s move to SoCal has prompted a multiyear sponsorship with the Los Angeles Angels, a partnership with Irvine revolving sushi chain Kura Sushi USA Inc. (Nasdaq: KRUS) and a Pac-Man-themed welcome event at the Irvine Spectrum earlier this year.
More local collaborations and events are underway, company officials said.
“Our corporate development team is very active and [has been] talking to all the local sports teams,” BNEA Senior VP, Corporate Development Karim Farghaly told the Business Journal.
Bandai, with popular titles including Pac-Man, Dragon Ball and Mobile Suit Gundam, has also leveraged the return of live events, appearing at this year’s Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Comic-Con in San Diego. The company releases about 20 to 30 games per year, compared to other large game publishers, such as Irvine’s Blizzard Entertainment, which release around four to five titles annually, officials said.
Elden Ring Hit
Bandai’s most recently announced collaboration is a planned jazz concert featuring Grammy award-winning American musician Kenny Garrett and Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda playing the music of Bandai’s recent role-playing game, “Elden Ring,” which has sold over 16.6 million copies worldwide since its release in February.
The fantasy action video game, with ties to “Game of Thrones” writer George R. R. Martin, is reported to be the fastest-selling game in Bandai’s history, outpacing Pac-Man and its offshoots from the heyday of the video arcade era.
The concert, taking place on Dec. 3 at the Bourbon Room in Hollywood, will be streamed live; tickets are also available online.
Bandai’s recent activity in SoCal comes as the company aims to double its North and South American sales over the next three years, despite near-term economic headwinds.
The Americas comprised of about 11% of Bandai’s sales for the 2022 fiscal year ended March 31, roughly $650 million, according to the company’s financials. Japan made up about 70% of the sales.
The company reported sales grew 20% to a record $6 billion in fiscal 2022. The growth, according to Bandai officials, was driven by strong sales of toys and collectible products for adults, as well as new and existing video games, such as “Elden Ring.”
Bandai last quarter—the first quarter of fiscal 2023—saw sales jump nearly 22% to $1.5 billion.
The company isn’t planning on growth this year, forecasting its fiscal 2023 revenue will fall about 1.7% to $5.9 billion.
$7B in Sales
While the parent company’s 2023 forecast remains conservative in light of global economic conditions, Bandai’s goals remain ambitious. The company in April launched its three-year plan to grow sales to $7 billion by 2025.
The plan includes investing over $100 million to create a metaverse that will serve as a new platform for fans to connect with Bandai’s titles and each other, according to officials.
The Gundam Metaverse will be the first stage in the company’s project, which aims to “maximize IP value over the medium to long term,” the company said.
Recent projects in the works include Bandai’s live-action Pac-Man movie and live-action Gundam movie, whose release dates have yet to be announced.
“We’re not just a gaming company or a toy company, we’re an entertainment company,” BNEA’s Farghaly said. “Being closer to Hollywood helps us develop [our] entertainment [initiatives].”
Proximity to Hollywood and to SoCal’s many gaming developers are just a few of the pros with Bandai’s new 65,000-square-foot Irvine office in the Spectrum area of the city.
Dubbed the Source H2O, the creative office campus was developed by the Irvine Ranch Water District on land it owns.
The primary reason for the company’s move, officials say, was to unite BNEA and Bandai’s toy and hobby business, Bandai Namco Toys & Collectibles America Inc. (BNTCA), under one roof to foster further collaboration between the company’s intellectual property.
“We have a lot of the shared IP, so it just made sense,” BNEA Senior Director, Digital Marketing and Business Mike Chang told the Business Journal.
BNTCA’s offices were previously in Anaheim and El Segundo. The company’s various business units in prior years also had a presence in Cypress.
“Sharing the same building has stirred the creative minds on both sides,” BNTCA CEO and President Steve Fujimura said in the company’s September report. “Different businesses with different work cultures working in the same office has significant challenges. However, we will overcome these matters … to foster effective, efficient marketing strategy for the U.S. market.”
Since the move, Bandai has hired a substantial amount of OC talent, company officials said.
“Obviously, not everyone is able to make the move from up north all the way down [here],” Chang said.
“But we’ve been very fortunate to find a lot of new talent in the last few months.”
Company officials, however, declined to provide exactly how much of their staff joined the company after the move to Irvine.
Bandai’s new Irvine office, at the corner of Odyssey and Waterworks Way, counts about 300 employees. Around 170 employees belong to BNEA, while the remainder of personnel belong to BNTCA and its parent company, Bandai Namco Holdings.
The company is currently hiring at its Irvine office for licensing, PR and managerial roles, among other positions.