Namco to publish Flagship Studios' first title

Console powerhouse targets the PC camp; picks up game due from breakaway Blizzard staffers.

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Namco Hometek took a dramatic step today with news that it would enter the world of PC game publishing. Its first title will come from Flagship Studios, the nine-person San Francisco Bay Area development shop (pictured at left) created by a team of ex-Blizzard staffers with a track record of million-sellers behind it.

The deal announced today is for a single game, but the principals behind the news didn't rule out an ongoing relationship. "Contractually, it's one title. But [there's] more of an understanding of: If we make a game and things are going right, we're not going anywhere," Flagship CEO Bill Roper told GameSpot yesterday.

Roper indicated that Flagship is working with a "timetable outline," but the team does not expect to show product at E3, nor does it have a fixed release date in mind.

In a statement released today, Namco COO and CFO Robert Ennis said, "This very exciting deal with Flagship Studios marks Namco’s official entry into the PC games publishing business." Stating that "Flagship shares our vision in bringing to market the most innovative and exciting games," Ennis delivered on his agenda of expanding the Namco mandate beyond the console camp. He told GameSpot yesterday that, "It's important to bring quality product to the entire [gaming] community."

Speaking to GameSpot before the news hit the wires, Roper addressed exactly what it was about Namco that singled them out from the more than a dozen publishers he said approached Flagship over the past few months. "They were excited and intensely passionate about what they were doing, not just from a business standpoint but, more importantly, from a development standpoint."

Referring to the many interested suitors that approached Flagship, Roper said, "We talked to a lot of people. [In Namco,] we saw a unique opportunity. This was a new direction that this well-established, well-historied game company was moving toward. It gave us the chance to be on the ground floor but with an extremely established company--one whose games we played and really liked."

The move is significant for Namco as it signals its intent to compete in the PC space, although Ennis emphasized that this was not indicative of a move away from console games. "We're not doing PC instead of console. We're doing PC along with console."

Both Roper and Ennis were optimistic about future possibilities. When asked to comment on the unit sales the two parties hoped to sell of the still-in-development title, Roper said, "We make games that sell millions of copies. That's the way that we're approaching [this title]. We're looking to sell products like we always have." Ennis backed Roper up and lent his own take on what lay ahead. "When this comes out, it will be game of the year."

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