Bandai's game line appeals to a variety of target demographics, and it sells to those targets with distribution strategies ranging from mostly mass to hobby only. The Digimon CCG, for example, was mostly invisible in the hobby, but Bandai told us that the 'launch last year was really, really strong for us in mass retail.' And early numbers on Hybrid Warriors, which just shipped, also indicate a good response at mass. Hybrid Warriors is the first of what will be three expansions for Digimon in 2005.
Digimon gets lots of TV exposure for its target 4-7-year-old market -- the anime airs 21 times a week on ABC Family and Toon Disney. A CGI Digimon movie has just been released in Japan (and will presumably be here before long), and the new TV series that will premiere in the U.S. in 2006 will also be CGI.
Danny Satyapan, Marketing Manager for Bandai's Collectible Games division acknowledged the lack of hobby penetration for the game, but said he expects better. 'As the popularity grows in mass people in hobby are going to start asking for it; but right now, it's had no play there,' he said. 'We're going to try to build that this year. There's still a huge fan base for Digimon.'
Bandai expects the Teen Titans CCG, based on the top-rated TV show (every afternoon on Cartoon Network) to appeal to both comic fans and fans of the show and sell in both hobby and mass. The card art is a mixture of screen captures and art commissioned from DC Comics. The game seeks to capture the action, humor, and anime-like feel of the TV show for its 6-12 target demographic. The first starters and boosters will ship in late April or early May.
The Gundam War CCG is hobby only, reflecting its 12+ target market. 'It's darker; it's age-graded much older,' a Bandai spokesperson said. 'There are people in their 40s playing this game.' Early response from the hobby has been good. 'We've already received reorders from all of the distributors on this one,' the spokesperson said.
Bandai is hoping that this new Gundam CCG can put its U.S. sales on track to follow the sales in Japan. 'For Bandai CCGs over the past ten years, this is our top performer,' said Satyapan. 'This is our Magic.'
There will be a total of three Gundam War CCG releases this year.
Navia Dratp is getting enhanced organized play support in 2005, including some major collectible goodies (such as cases, and special silver and gold figures) for event organizers. And that will have to hold off those that want more -- Bandai's only shipping one Navia Dratp expansion this year, in September or October.
Bandai's biggest game release of the year, Zatch Bell, was covered separately (see 'Bandai Gets Zatch Bell').