Namco's Kromrey reveals strategy to chomp out a share of App Store

GM of the new iPhone division is fuelled by innovation

Namco's Kromrey reveals strategy to chomp out a share of App Store
| Namco Networks news

Namco has been chomping on the bits and bytes of the game industry for decades, evolving from the ghosts of 8-bit gaming to a position of power on consoles.

Its new dedicated iPhone division shows, however, that times are changing and so is Namco.

Helmed by general manager Jonathan Kromrey, whose previous work at Apple puts him in an ideal position to lead the way at Namco Networks, this new initiative represents more than just another publisher throwing its weight around the App Store.

Namco is putting its full force behind iPhone, employing a carefully contrived strategy to leverage the company's experience while recognising the challenges of the platform.

With several titles already on the App Store including I Love Katamari, Time Crisis Strike, and Galaga REMIX, Namco's push goes further than releasing the occasional game.

"We plan on having a great spread of products at various prices," admits Kromrey. "I want us to go beyond that, though, and create the next Pac-Man, seek out unique and innovative experiences and this is the device on which to do it."

Kromrey says there have been some difficulties along the way. "Not all of our games have come out perfect, but we're striving toward making them great."

Part of that drive includes supporting Facebook across all Namco Network games. All titles moving forward will link to Facebook and updates to currently available titles will bring them into the fold.

There are greater ambitions, too. While reluctant to share concrete details, Kromrey hinted at social networking that goes beyond the endeavour to integrate Facebook.

"We're embarking on our own way to connect players globally," Kromrey teases. Much like Gameloft Live, this social gaming platform promises a way of building a community around Namco titles while at the same time opening a new avenue for marketing.

"Our greatest challenge and best asset is the ability to transport players into the game," he explains. "Like going to a movie theatre, you want to watch a movie but with other people. That communal feeling is what we're striving for, what is critical to our success."

For Kromrey, word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful means of driving success on the App Store and that comes as a result of leveraging Facebook and other social networks - particularly Namco's own.

Cultivating community, however, is more than just unifying titles under a banner and throwing a bunch of achievements to hardcore gamers. Kromrey believes in developing a relationship with each gamer that extends well beyond the initial purchase of a Namco game.

"We want to continue the value by updating games post-release in a compelling way."

Micro-transactions play a role, he says, though one that has to be carefully plotted.

"They're pretty tricky," Kromrey warns. "You really want to avoid taking advantage of the player."

Creating content is the easy part, whereas discerning the right price point for a transaction can be a stressful challenge. Instead of micro-transactions in the traditional sense, where small pieces of content - clothes for avatars, wallpapers, or other interchangeable components - are traded for coins, the objective is to deliver meatier downloads that provide substantial value.

Bo Bandy, senior marketing manager for Namco Networks, elaborates. "The initial experience has to be complete, satisfying; however, we can build on that with new levels and other content that justifies another couple dollars."

Kromrey agrees, emphasising that there's no desire within the company to offer 59p/99c micro-transactions of meaningless content. In other words, paying for more gameplay makes sense, but chalking up money for digital clothes or a backdrop doesn't.

The primary focus, Kromrey reminds, lies with delivering great games.

"Our greatest challenge and best asset is player immersion," he contends. "We want to get players into our games and if we can do that, we're going to be successful."

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.