Bandai Namco is making some big investments into the vaguely-defined idea of the metaverse, and it’s starting first with what it’s calling the “Gundam Metaverse Project.”
Here is the summary of Bandai Namco’s broad metaverse vision, from a March press release. (I will warn you that there is a lot of jargon ahead.)
The new mid-term plan will introduce a new means of connecting fans to entertainment properties by building a metaverse for each IP under Bandai Namco Group’s portfolio, which is also utilized as a key part of the company’s IP based strategies. Development will begin with the creation of the “GUNDAM Metaverse” where it will become a platform of opportunities for GUNDAM fans worldwide to come together to converse and connect in a variety of categories.
This metaverse will steadily grow to build a solid foundation as the project moves forward into the future. First step for the metaverse is to create virtual communities for each category, and to enable connections to the categories through use of the BANDAI NAMCO iD.
As for the Gundam-specific aspects, Bandai Namco is planning to build out virtual communities for aspects of the fandom like video games, anime, music, and Gunpla (aka Gundam model-building). “These virtual communities will meld with the world of GUNDAM as the virtual spaces will be made in the form of space colonies, which will be connected to the ‘GUNDAM Metaverse’ space hub under the name ‘SIDE-G,’” the company said.
The first of these SIDE-G colonies will be one focused around Gunpla, “where various Gunpla related experiences will be made available within the virtual world.” Bandai Namco is also planning an esports-themed colony for 2023. Basically, the communities seem like they’ll be interesting virtual spaces to nerd out about all things Gundam.
However, in the “near future,” Bandai Namco wants people to build businesses around making Gundam-themed content. Here is the company’s description of that vision:
In the near future, Bandai Namco Group will urge companies other than the Bandai Namco Group to join the GUNDAM market and allow general users to conduct C2C businesses using the GUNDAM brand in the form of user generated content (UGC).
By building a metaverse in which character rights are preserved and implementing this initiative, it expects that new Gundam businesses will be created and that this will lead to further expansion of Gundam IP co-created with fans.
The “GUNDAM Metaverse Project” will build “SIDE-G” by launching space colonies for each available category. Bandai Namco Group will create a new economic domain to promote C2C businesses with an invitation for other companies to join a virtual space where GUNDAM fans around the world can enjoy the virtual world together as part of their daily lives.
It’s unclear how the mechanics of this will work or exactly what the “user generated content” will look like. I desperately hope it won’t be NFTs, but an announcement made Friday indicates Bandai Namco is taking at least some interest in blockchain technologies. The company has launched the “Bandai Namco Entertainment 021 (Zero to One) Fund” to invest in “global startup companies that provide entertainment-related products and services that utilize technologies such as blockchains, VR/AR/xR, AI, etc., and are engaged in metaverse and Web3-related businesses.”
While it remains to be seen if the metaverse is more than a flash-in-the-pan tech trend, Bandai Namco says it is committed to its vision for Gundam for at least the next few years. “In order to grow to an even larger scale after 2026, Bandai Namco Group will promote the development of each colony with the ‘Gundam Metaverse’ as a pillar of the Group,” the company said in its March press release.
And Bandai Namco has only gone into detail about this Gundam metaverse; the company has a host of other huge franchises like Pac-Man and Tekken that it could try to create new virtual worlds around. (It also publishes Elden Ring, though I am praying that Bandai Namco does not do anything metaverse-y with it. Put those foolish ambitions to rest.)
Many other tech and gaming companies are also rushing to stake their own claims to the metaverse. Meta is making web and mobile versions of its Quest VR-only Horizon Worlds, game creation tool Core is expanding from PC to Apple platforms this summer, Epic Games and Lego are partnering on a metaverse for kids, and even metaverse OG Second Life is making a renewed push by bringing back its founder as a strategic advisor. But they’ll all be competing against Fortnite and Roblox for relevance in the virtual world.