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Scott Rubin Speaks on Namco Wireless plus EA and Jamdat

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Scott Rubin, VP of Sales and Marketing for Namco, about the role of traditional game publishers in wireless gaming and his take on the EA acquisition of Jamdat.

Matt: Hi Scott. Let's start this off with a discussion of how Namco is doing in the wireless space.
Scott: Namco is celebrating its 50th year in the gaming business. We are a traditional game publisher but the interesting thing there is that Telesia just ranked wireless gaming companies by market share and Jamdat was number one and Namco was number two mobile games publisher in North America. So Jamdat as number one was acquired by EA and there we are as number two. We, probably more than other traditional game publishers, see mobile as a very important part of the game industry overall. EA told the world this by acquiring Jamdat; Namco is telling the industry this by taking what was once a wireless games division and from Jan 1 on spinning off an entire company under the Namco umbrella dedicated to mobile and wireless games. We are taking wireless gaming seriously and are committed to it. This is the first mass market device that can play games and we're making sure that we're on top of it by providing games to the millions of people who have cell phones.

Matt: What are your thoughts on the EA acquisition of Jamdat?
Scott:We welcome it. We think that history has shown in the industry that competition helps assure quality and we have always been about putting quality games out on any platform but I think we're known in the mobile game space especially for putting out quality games. Pac Man looks just like the arcade game on the phone; it takes 3.8 seconds to go from the bottom left to the bottom right just like the arcade version. We're all about quality and we think that this step up in competition will only help assure quality and increase adoption of mobile games. Ninety percent of consumers don't even know they can download and play a game. Millions of people are going to do it and they're going to hopefully have a good experience because the quality is better and there are more games. We think it's going to have a positive effect on the industry and clearly consolidation is a trend. In 2006, carriers are going to become more and more selective about what games they offer and who they work with so this is just a big step forward for the whole industry. When EA announced that they were buying Jamdat is just made sense to me because now they're caught up with the market.

Matt: Could you please explain a little bit about spinning off a division at Namco?
Scott: Right now, over the last 3.5-4 years, Namco has been in the wireless space in North America as a wireless content division of Namco and starting January 1st we're spinning off a company which is going to be called Namco Networks and it will be a separate company dedicated to the mobile game space. We are showing the industry that we're dedicated to this space and we are setting this up so we can grow at a fast pace. My analogy is that we're sharing an apartment with other roommates and on January 1 we're moving out to a bigger apartment with more space to grow. We are going to be hiring. We have bigger marketing budgets. We'll continue to expand our catalog of mobile games and we will continue to focus on supporting the carrier to educate the consumer about mobile games. We're very excited about the spinoff.

Matt: How are you doing that?
Scott: Part of it is talking to people who can write about games. We recently exhibited at a trade show in NYC called DigitalLife which was a consumer trade show that was all about consumer education. So many people would pick up the phone and say, 'Do you mean that I could download this on my phone?' and the answer is yes and here's how you can do it. But even watching them play, they're using their index finger and then we'll suggest that they use their thumbs. It's purely an educational experience. We've been advertising in some mass market publications. We're running on United Air this month and next month where people can learn about downloading games on their phone while sitting on an airplane thinking about what they're going to do while sitting in the airport waiting for their luggage and their ride. Where are people looking for 5 minutes of fun? Sitting in an airport, waiting in line at the movie theater, waiting for the train, waiting at a restaurant, and we're trying to make playing a game on your mobile phone a natural extension of this.

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