Japan's Gree ties with Namco Bandai to offer social Pac-Man, other titles

Gree says the deal will allow it to use Bandai Namco's well-known titles on its growing game platform

Gree, the Japanese mobile gaming company, and game developer Namco Bandai said Tuesday they have agreed to a business tie-up that will bring social versions of Namco titles to Gree's growing social gaming network.

A social version of the classic game Pac-Man will be launched internationally by the end of the year as part of the initial phase of deal, the companies said. Several social games will also launch in Japan, including a game based on the popular Japanese comic book series Naruto, to go live on Wednesday.

The deal is the latest in a series of aggressive moves by Gree, which is pursuing a stated goal of 1 billion users, about five times its total at the end of last year. The company said it would acquire California-based game developer Funzio in May, after buying U.S. platform operator OpenFeint last year. In March, Gree made a strong move into Europe, partnering with French developer Ubisoft to launch a version of the popular game Assassin's Creed.

Gree is finalizing its new gaming platform, of which it launched an open beta version in May. The "Gree Platform" unifies the company's diverse set of development APIs and allows developers to launch globally on iOS, Android or on the web. It will also allow the company to unify its profitable social and advertising networks.

One of the company's chief rivals in Japan and international markets is DeNA, which acquired mobile game firm ngmoco and has sealed deals with large carriers such as AT&T. Last year, Namco established a joint venture with DeNA, which is now called BNDeNA, with the goal of producing social games for smartphones globally.

The companies generate more profit from games they develop in-house, but need existing content to draw user interest. Namco is a strong partner because of its diverse holdings, which include well-known franchises such as Pac-Man and Naruto, as well as Tekken, Dragon Ball, Galaga and Ace Combat.

Games based on the Naruto comic have been popular for Namco worldwide. The game company said in January it had sold 10 million games from its various titles based on the series, including 8.1 million in Europe and North America.

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