Celebrating PAC-MAN’s 40th anniversary – Interview with Bandai Namco CEO Yasuo Miyakawa

In case you didn’t know,  this year is Pac-Man’s 40th anniversary as a franchise and a gaming icon. Even if you are not familiar with Bandai Namco, the studio behind the Pac-Man series, you are probably familiar with the game itself. The hungry yellow ball has been featured around the globe, and has appeared in films, TV shows and other media.

During Web Summit’s Collision at Home, I spoke with Bandai Namco CEO Yasuo Miyakawa. In 1981, Miyakawa joined Bandai and quickly climbed through the company’s ranks. During his tenure, Miyakawa has been a part of the launch of Sailor Moon and produced Dragon Ball Z – Super Butoden 2. His largest contribution falls back to the same franchise that brought him to the company in the first place, Gundam.  Miyakawa played a key role in the expansion of the Gundam animated series.

In 2019, Miyakawa was appointed the role of president and CEO of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. We spoke about the impact Pac-Man has had, Bandai Namco’s leading animation, and much more.

SQUAD: How does it feel to be sitting here in 2020 celebrating such a milestone as Pac-Man’s 40th anniversary?

Yasuo Miyakawa: I wasn’t personally involved with the development of Pac-Man, but as someone responsible for handling its 40 years of legacy, I will do what I can to keep Pac-Man in the public eye as a popular IP for 40 more years into the future.

PAC-MAN is such a revered mascot in the video game industry. In your opinion, what makes him and the games under his name so timeless for players young and old?

I believe Pac-Man’s simple game mechanic and memorable design made him into a timeless mascot and brand. I also believe the game’s main gameplay mechanic based on “eating” has made Pac-Man games easy for everyone to understand and enjoy.

The character of Pac-Man has broken out of just being a video game character and has been featured in many other pieces of media, including movies. What has that process been like to work alongside different productions in order to preserve the character?

We constantly receive requests to have Pac-Man make appearances in different projects, and we spend a great amount of time evaluating every request to determine whether Pac-Man’s image will be properly portrayed and whether the IP’s image and the world and environment within the proposed project is a proper match for Pac-Man.

Bandai Namco has always been a leader in animation, with varying art styles and direction. Are there any examples that pop into your mind when it comes to notable successes? Are there any you’d like to return into the fold with new eyes and perspective?

One of our pride and joy IPs in terms of success models has to be the Gundam series, known for its popular line of plastic models, Gunpla. We also make toys, visual products, and games just to name a few. In our March 2020 fiscal year report, we reported sales of more than 78 billion yen within our group company, showing the importance of the Gundam brand for our group.

As for any we would like to return to the fold, there are so many I can’t single anyone out, but if time permits, I would like to revisit as many as we can.

Bandai Namco has appears to remain on course to have a successful year despite the global hurdles. What has this process been while keeping safety and health at the forefront? What were some of the challenges you have experienced?

We have yet to see the remainder of the year to make a final call as to whether we are truly successful or not amid these trying times. But there is something we never forget, and that is to keep the safety of our employees and the needs of our fans foremost in mind no matter what we do.

With that in mind, how is Bandai Namco moving forward in 2020 and beyond? Are there any exciting initiatives you are leading that you can touch on?

We are looking forward to releasing more titles to come, as it is our goal and responsibility to deliver fun for everyone throughout the world.

I know this is off subject, but I have been personally involved with Japan’s professional basketball team, the Shimane Susanoo Magic’s management, so I’m just hoping they have a great season for this year.

[This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.]

SQUAD would like to thank Yasuo Miyakawa for taking the time to chat with us! More information on PAC-MAN’s 40th  anniversary can be found on the official website.

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Steve Vegvari

Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His adoration for everything gaming began very early on in the SNES-era. He’s gone on to write honest content around the web. While not writing about games, Steve is often looking for the next big narrative-driven title. Something with an impactful story, regardless of genre or platform. Bonus points if it has an appealing achievement/trophy list!
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