Namco Limited (株式会社ナムコ) is a Japanese brand name used from 1971 to 2018, and former developer of arcade and home console games. Founded in 1955 under the name Nakamura Seisakusho, the company originally produced mechanical children's amusement devices, before moving towards the video game industry in 1978.
Namco merged with Bandai in 2006 to form Bandai Namco Holdings, the third largest video game entity in Japan, with the original Namco name being used for the operation of amusement spots in North America, Europe and Japan. The Japanese division was renamed to Bandai Namco Entertainment in April 2018, however the original Namco name continues to be used in North America and Europe (although rarely).
Namco is most well-known for their video game franchises; Pac-Man, their highest-grossing and most well-known series, has since become the mascot for the company and one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world, as well as becoming an international pop-culture icon. Namco has also developed numerous other franchises, including Galaxian, Dig Dug, Mappy, Pole Position, Ridge Racer and Tekken, among others.
Namco was founded by Japanese businessman Masaya Nakamura in June 1955, under the name Nakamura Seisakusho. The company began production on toys, such as rocking horses and wooden pop guns, and large-scale electro mechanical amusement rides atop Japanese department stores. Nakamura Seisakusho would soon produce electro-mechanical games for arcades, beginning in 1955 with Osumatsu-Kun Derby, a jockey racing game where players rode atop mechanical horses. In 1971, the company's name was shorted to Namco, originally an acronym for Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company.
In 1974, Namco purchased Atari's Japanese division for $300,000 US, outbidding competitor Sega in the process. The acquisition have Namco the rights to release Atari games in Japan, including Pong and Breakout. That same year, Namco partnered with Atari to create a mechanical driving game, F-1, which used projectors and miniature models to create the illusion of a 3D game.
The acquisition of Atari Japan lead Namco to develop their own video games. Their first original game was Gee Bee, released in 1978 and developed by Namco's then-new employee, Toru Iwatani - that same year, the company opened their first arcade game center, Namco Land, and began manufacturing robots, one of which would become the inspiration for the game Mappy. In 1979, Namco released Galaxian, one of the earliest video games to use RGB colors for graphics. A year later, Namco released their most successful game, Pac-Man, which became an international pop culture icon and one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time, becoming Namco's official mascot and flagship character. Namco would continue developing arcade games throughout the 1980s, including Rally-X, Galaga, Dig Dug, Xevious, Pole Position, Mappy and The Tower of Druaga. In 1983, Namco launched their own game magazine, NG, which featured news on upcoming games and developer interviews.
Namco was one of the earliest contractors for Nintendo's Family Computer console, alongside Hudson Soft, and began producing games for home consoles, with Xevious and The Tower of Druaga becoming best-sellers for the systems at the time. In 1985, Namco purchased a $10 million stake in Atari Games, formed after the split of Atari by Warner Communications. Disagreements between Nakamura and Atari Games's founder, Hideyuki Nakajima, lead to a falling out between the two, with Namco considering Atari to be a direct competitor from then on. That same year, Namco developed a device for disabled individuals, known as Talking Aid, and purchased the Italian Tomato restaurant chain in Japan.
Due to frustrations between the two, Namco sold off their share of Atari Games back to Nakajima. Later that year, Namco released Final Lap, one of the earliest racing games to feature rubber-banding and multi-player competitive play. Namco's stock rose to over 5.5 billion yen in 1988, and a year later Namco would develop Winning Run, a racing game that featured 3D polygonal graphics, which at the time were considered revolutionary.
In 1989, Namco decided to renew their license with Nintendo, as they were one of the first third-party companies to develop games for the Family Computer, and accounted for 40% of their sales of video games. One of these privileges was the company being allowed to manufacture their own cartridges, which were revoked when the renewal contract was sent. Furious, Nakamura publicly criticized Nintendo, and stated Namco would shift efforts to the Sega Mega Drive and PC-Engine. Namco continued developing highly praised arcade games during the 1990s, including Ridge Racer, Tekken, Soulcalibur and Ace Combat. In 1992, Namco opened their first theme park in Osaka, Wonder Eggs. In 1993, Namco purchased Japanese film studio Nikkatsu, and Nakamura became director for many of their films, while the NG magazine was retired. In 1994, Namco launched a new magazine, Nours, which continues to run today under the name Side 876.
In 2005, Namco merged with Japanese company Bandai to form Bandai Namco Holdings, becoming the third largest video game entity in Japan and the seventh largest in the world. Nakamura resigned as CEO of the company, and the original Namco brand name was spun-off into a subsidiary company that handled amusement spots across the globe, however the Namco label would still be used on several of their games (mostly Namco Museum compilations) to reflect the game's legacy. Bandai Namco also sold off their shares of Nikkatsu and Italian Tomato. In 2007, Bandai Namco Games released Pac-Man Championship Edition, being the final game developed by Toru Iwatani before his departure from the company. In January 2017, Namco's original founder, Masaya Nakamura, passed away at 91 years old, and in April 2018 Namco was renamed to Bandai Namco Amusement, with Namco USA being one of the last companies to retain the original Namco name and trademark.
|Ace Combat||ARC, PS1, PS2, GBA, PC, iOS, XB, X360, PS3, 3DS||Flight simulator|
|Babylonian Castle Saga||ARC, FC, PCE, SF, PS1, PC, GCN, PS2, X360, Switch||RPG|
|Baraduke||ARC, X6800, PS1, 360, Wii||Platformer|
|Bosconian||ARC, PCE, PS1, PSP, X360, Wii||Shooter|
|Dig Dug||ARC, 2600, 5200, FC, NES, X6800, PS1, PS2, PC, DC, N64, PSP, DS, iOS, Wii, XOne, PS4, Switch||Maze|
|Dragon Spirit||ARC, PCE, PS1, XB, PS2, GCN, Wii||Shooter|
|Family Stadium||FC, SF, N64, GCN, iOS, DS, 3DS, Switch||Sports|
|Final Lap||ARC, PCE, PC, WSC||Racing|
|Galaxian/Galaga||ARC, 2600, 5200, 7800, FC, NES, PCE, TG16, PS1, DC, N64, PS2, XB, GCN, X360, PS3, DS, PSP, PC, iOS, Switch||Shooter|
|Gee Bee||ARC, PS1, Wii||Block breaker|
|.Hack||PS2, PC, PS3, PSP, iOS||RPG|
|Katamari||PS2, X360, PS3, PC, iOS, PSVita, Switch, PS4||Sandbox|
|Klonoa||PS1, WS, PS2, GBA, Wii||Platformer|
|Mappy||ARC, FC, NES, PS1, GCN, PS2, XB, PSP, DS, X360, PS3, iOS||Platformer|
|Mr. Driller||ARC, PS1, DC, PC, GCN, DS, X360, PS3, Wii, iOS||Puzzle|
|Namco Museum||PS1, DC, N64, GBA, PC, GCN, XB, PS2, PSP, X360, PS3, Wii, Switch||Compilation|
|Point Blank||ARC, PS1, PS2, DS, iOS||Lightgun|
|Pole Position||ARC, 2600, 5200, 7800, PS1, DC, N64, GBA, GCN, XB, PS2, X360, PS3, iOS||Racing|
|Rally-X||ARC, MSX, PS1, PS2, GCN, X360, Wii, PC, iOS||Maze|
|Ridge Racer||ARC, PS1, N64, PS2, GCN, X360, PS3, PSP, PSVita, iOS||Racing|
|Rolling Thunder||ARC, FC, C64, ACPC, SG, PS1, X360, Switch||Platformer|
|Soulcalibur||ARC, DC, PS2, XB, X360, PS3, XOne, PS4, PC||Fighting|
|Splatterhouse||ARC, FC, TG-16, SG, PC, X360, PS3, Switch||Beat-em-up|
|Taiko no Tatsujin||ARC, PS2, X360, DS, PSP, 3DS, Wii, PS3, PS4, XOne, Switch, iOS||Rhythm|
|Tales||PS1, PS2, XB, GCN, DS, PSP, 3DS, PS4, XOne||RPG|
|Tank Battalion||ARC, MSX, FC, PC, iOS, Switch||Maze|
|Tekken||ARC, PS1, WS, PS2, GBA, PS3, X360, PS4, XOne, PC, iOS||Fighting|
|The Idolmaster||ARC, PS2, X360, PSP, DS, PSVita, PS4, iOS||Raising simulation|
|Time Crisis||ARC, PS1, PS2, PS3, iOS||Lightgun|
|Valkyrie||FC, ARC, PC, PS1, Wii, iOS||RPG|
|Xevious||ARC, 7800, FC, NES, MSX, MSX2, PCE, X6800, PS1, PS2, GCN, XB, PS3, X360, Wii, PC||Shooter|
- When licensing out Pac-Man to non-Japanese video game companies, Namco did not allow Pac-Man to be the main playable character of a game. Companies would get around this by using other characters (Ms., Junior, Baby), having the player control a cursor (Pac-Man 2), or featuring a younger Pac-Man (Pac-In-Time). This rule seems to have ended sometime around 1998, upon the release of Pac-Man World.