Bandai Namco, aka: Shut up and take my money!

So, this post has been going around my head for a few weeks now because I’ve been playing Dragonball Xenoverse 2 a lot, and while it isn’t perfect, it certainly has been enjoyable enough for me to consider it well worth the money I paid for it. I started thinking about how many games I’ve bought this year that start with the Bandai Namco logo; there’s God Eater 2: Rage Burst, a trio of 80s arcade ports for my PS4, and I bought all of Dark Souls AGAIN so I could have them on my PC whenever I felt the urge to try a new run in any of them. Today, I saw the teaser trailer for Dark Souls Remastered, and I know that this means I will again be buying another copy for my PS4, even though I’ve already bought the game twice before.

Add in to this the upcoming Code Vein, Dragonball FighterZ, God Eater 3, and another potential new release from FromSoftware and it becomes clear that Bandai Namco is going to be getting the bulk of my gaming budget for the foreseeable future. I really want to talk about this, about why I like so many of their games and like supporting their releases sight unseen where with most other publishers I have to be convinced by reviews and Lets Play videos before I will consider opening my wallet.

First of all, I think a lot of this has to do with my experiences playing games and memorizing who published what. Publishing a game is not the same thing as making it. For instance, Bandai Namco did not make the Dark Souls series. That honor goes to FromSoftware, but Bandai Namco has such an amazing plethora of game companies working with them, and each time I see that logo at the start of a game, it give me a positive impression that I’m going to be playing something good. It might be a fighting game, or an arcade port, or a hack and slash “RPG.” (I still dislike calling these games RPGs because my decisions don’t really alter the story, and I rarely have any sense of agency with my characters. The only role play in them is choosing where to spend my skill points, and while that affects how I fight in the game, it does not change the story or the outcome.) No matter what style of game it is, seeing that logo tells me “This is gonna be something good.”

Compare that to Ubisoft, where I’ve played so many of their games and found them to be less satisfying. I can only think of one game I played from them that I liked, and that was Child of Light, a turn based RPG developed by an indie studio. The game’s finishing touches were funded by Ubisoft, but the whole concept and design are so vastly different from most of the Ubisoft games I’ve played. In recent memory, I’ve played two Assassin’s Creed games, two Rayman games, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry 4, and without exception, all of these games ended with me feeling either mehtastic or completely disappointed. So, yeah, to convince me to play anything at all from Ubisoft, I’m going to need more than a few positive reviews to buy a new title. I’m going to need to see the game in action in several Lets Play videos before I get it.

Or take Bethesda as another example. There are some gamers who will forgive Bethesda on every game for the number of bugs they leave unpatched, and even some reviewers who would go so far as to say the mass of bugs and glitches found in launch titles are “part of the charm” of Bethesda games. Yeah, because a bug that erases 20 hours of progress and forces me to start a new game is just so “charming.” The only reason I’ve played most of their games is that my husband bought them, and I eventually caved to play them through. What’s amazing about them isn’t just the number of bugs in their games, but more that the bugs are chaotically dynamic. A feature or quest that worked fine on one play through might be a game breaking glitch in the next, and stuff you know is broken might suddenly decide to work right. In this regard, I have to tip a hat to them. No one else in the industry could get away with releasing shit shows of this caliber and still turn a profit and garner positive reviews. Only Bethesda can get away with fucking you over and you still thank them for it.

This is not to say I’m a cheerleader for Bandai Namco, or think they are squeaky clean in all their practices. I’ve heard them called Scamco Bandai, and I’m well aware that like most publishers, they are willing to do some scummy things in order to squeeze out as much cash as they can from me. They are not a friend, an ally, or anything positive like that. They are a corporation, and their view of me is the same as any corporation. Which is to say, I’m a cow to be milked, except my milk is money.

BUT, and much like my ample derrière this is a big but, the number of positive experiences I get out of their games far outweighs the number of times I’ve felt disappointed. This is the main reason I’m willing to look for their stuff on day one and pick it up rather than waiting a few months for a bargain bin sale. That’s not something I can say for EA, WB, Activision, Konami, Capcom, Bethesda or even a smaller publisher like Devolver Digital. In the past, companies like Activision, Konami, and Capcom were all in my “day one purchase” category because during the NES and SNES days, they too had a much better track record with me. I loved their games, and there were so few that left me feeling disappointed. It’s just that over time, they seem to have forgotten what made their games fun, and they started trading in all of their goodwill in pursuit of easy money. So now I’m not just leery of their new releases. I’m openly skeptical and yes even cynical that they can release something worth my time and money.

And perhaps at some point in the future, Bandai Namco will also drop enough stinkers that I stop trusting them without seeing reviews. But looking at what I’m playing now and what I plan to play in 2018, I can say that for the time being, Bandai Namco can just shut up and take my money.