Eyebrows were raised when the Namcot Collection was released a few years ago. Sure, everybody is familiar with Namco – with their excellent arcade games (read our Tekken 2 Review, Point Blank Review, and Aqua Jet Review), but Namcot? Is that correct?
I first became aware of Namcot when I began my retro game collection, and picking up Famicom games. A lot of them were branded with Namcot on their cartridges, which were odd. So this got me thinking – who are Namcot? Where was it used? And why did it not reach us?
Well, after a bit of digging I began to piece together puzzle. The official answer is it was just a name used to publish video games on home systems in Japan, particularly 0n the Famicom. Namco got started in the video game industry by buying Atari’s struggling Japan division in 1984, and part of me does wonder if the company spun up it’s home division based on keeping the profitable arcade division and the experimental home video game division separate, as although Namco was one of the first third party publishers for Nintendo’s Famicom, there was of course no chance of universal success.
It didn’t seem to exist outside of Japan because, well, nobody really knows. Most of the publishing slapped Namco on the front cover, or some games like Dig Dug II had foreshadowing of what’s to come by being published by Bandai.
So how long did this go on for? Well, despite being most associated with the Famicom with their branded cartridges Namcot seemed to stop appearing on games and Namco taking over around the early Playstation days. The last game to my recollection to have the Namcot branding were two games: the original Tekken on the PS1, and Starblade Alpha, which both came out on the same day – March 31st 1995 in Japan.
The next Japanese release was Ace Combat, known as Air Combat in the US and UK, on June 30th 1995, which was branded Namco.
A small bit of curiosity digging has found that the Japanese tax year seems to begin on April 1st, so we can possibly assume that Namcot and any entity that was associated with it was wound into Namco around that date.
I should state I’m not an expert in Japanese corporation tax and business structures and what I’ve just said may be false.
Either way the brand name died until The Namcot Collection, which was released over here as Namco Museum Archive. Even on the fun MyArcade games which do seem to use the Japanese version of Dig Dug, you only get the BNEI branding. And that’s a story for another time.