JAN. 21, 2014 • BNDeNA, the joint venture between Bandai Namco and DeNA to produce social mobile games, will be disbanded as of March 31. The partnership was launched in October of 2011 as BDNA and headquartered in Tokyo. Initial capitalization was a trim ¥100 million ($1.3 million), and Bandai Namco retained a 75% ownership share. Executives from both companies were selected to manage the joint venture with the idea of marrying Bandai Namco’s experience in video game development with DeNA’s strength in social games. In April of 2012 the venture was renamed BNDeNA. The company’s first title was Macross SP Cross Deculture, a social action game based on the Macross science fiction mecha anime franchise released for iOS and Android platforms in July 2012 via DeNA’s Mobage service. Gundam Kingdom, a graphical card title, was released the following January. Both titles will be closed down by March 20 of this year.
Impact: When new entertainment platforms take off with consumers there is a mad rush by many companies to get in early to stake out market share, or simply not to be left behind. Joint ventures often arise as a means of cross-pollinating useful expertise between firms anxious to jump into new business segments. Case in point: the rapid growth of smartphone sales and mobile social networks in Japan. DeNA already had a huge business in serving games to feature phones via its Mobage Town site, and sought to increase its expertise in game development for smartphones. Part of that goal was achieved by acquiring San Francisco-based mobile social network Ngmoco in the fall of 2010. For its part Bandai Namco was well versed in video game development on handheld and console platforms, but wanted to acquire more experience in social mobile networks. BNDeNA gave talent from both firms the opportunity to learn from each other. At the minimal capitalization invested it is obvious that the joint venture had very limited product aspirations. Its releases were generally well received but were not blockbuster hits by any stretch of the imagination. Neither was Bandai Namco giving DeNA an exclusive on its non-BNDeNA titles during the last four years while Bandai Namco has become a major producer of social smartphone games in Japan. During the same period DeNA has acquired a number of development studios such as Astro Ape and Gameview to enhance its production capabilities. So by this stage both Bandai Namco and DeNA are well situated to pursue their mobile goals, and maintaining BNDeNA served no further purpose.