Bandai Namco Entertainment invests in more U.S. game startups

Bandai Namco’s 021 Fund said it has invested in two additional U.S. game startups — Flickplay and Code Charm — as part of its strategic investment plan.

The Japanese-based company, a division of global game giant Bandai Namco Entertainment, is investing in game startups in the U.S. despite a recent spate of gaming layoffs and a slowdown in gaming venture capital investments.

This strategic investment aligns with Bandai Namco’s overarching vision of fostering deep, diverse relationships with fans, partners, employees, and communities worldwide under the theme “Fun for All into the Future.”

“We continue to invest in the U.S. market and startups in America because we think the U.S. is like the center of advanced technology and also the center of entertainment,” said Yoyo Yang, chief of the corporate planning unit at Bandai Namco Entertainment, in an interview with GamesBeat. “That’s why we invest even though the environment right now for fundraising and startups is not that good. We are committed to the community and we continue to invest in the good companies. All of these solutions in these companies are focused on the community itself.”


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She noted that Code Charm’s Magma is focused on supporting creators all over the world, while Flickplay is focused on communities around digital and physical characters. Previously, Bandai Namco also said it invested in GGWP, which is focused on reducing toxic behavior in communities.

Code Charm’s Magma is a tool for creators to collaborate.

“Bandai Namco Entertainment is all about connecting with fans,” said Karim Farghaly, senior vice president of corporate development at Bandai Namco Entertainment America, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We connect with fans using video games. But we’re not a traditional video game publisher as we have a pretty big toy business and amusement business. So we create multiple connections with fans with different media. That is how we can extend IP value and deliver richer experiences to the fan. This is really an extension of what we’re trying to do by striking partnerships and investing in companies that will give us an opportunity to connect with fans in a different way in the future.”

Farghaly said Bandai Namco has invested historically in third-party game studios or games themselves, but these new investments are much wider in nature in terms of partnering with startups.

Flickplay offers a unique service that intertwines digital toys with real-world experiences. Their “phygital” platform enables users to purchase digital toys from designated stores or locations and engage in mini-games based on these toys.

Flickplay has a storefront for digital characters.

Additionally, these digital toys can be incorporated into augmented reality content, encouraging social sharing and interaction among players. Flickplay is based in California and its CEO is Pierina Merino, who founded the company in 2019. Bandai Namco invested in the seed round.

Code Charm has a tool for game developers. It has created Magma, a cloud-based collaboration tool facilitating seamless communication among multiple creators working on joint projects. Magma aims to not only enhance collaboration but also provide creators with opportunities to showcase their work and find employment within a thriving community. Code Charm is based in Texas and its CEO is Damian Kaczmarek. The focus is on artists, teams and communities.

Kazuki Ikeda, assistant manager of the corporate planning division at Bandai Namco Entertainment, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the Flickplay platform lets you purchase digital toys and then trade them with other users or use them to buy more items in a store.

“A lot of entertainment activities have moved from the physical space to the digital space. But at the same time, we do feel that because of that the way people get value in these actual physical experiences have also increased,” said Ikeda. “As a fund, we want to find ways of seamlessly connecting the digital realms with the physical realms, and that’s why we invested in this company.”

Ikeda also said the company hasn’t slowed down its investment activities but is constant revisiting its investment thesis to better fit the market situation. The company continues to look at emerging markets as well as the immersion of physical and digital technologies, he said. It also looks for ways it can leverage its intellectual property and platforms.

The Bandai Namco Entertainment 021 Fund’s focus on investments that enhance community engagement stands in line with their broader goals of evolving the entertainment landscape. This investment in U.S.-based companies follows previous investments, demonstrating the company’s proactive stance in pursuing innovative services and technologies both domestically and internationally, the company said.

Bandai Namco Entertainment CEO Nao Udagawa emphasized the fund’s commitment to cultivating a future where entertainment seamlessly integrates into people’s daily lives, bridging the divide between physical and digital realms.

The fund’s strategic moves include a previous investment in GGWP, a San Francisco company leveraging AI-based moderation technology to foster a secure and positive gaming environment. Dennis “Thresh” Fong, a former esports superstar, is CEO of GGWP. Back in March, Bandai Namco’s fund also invested in invested in DeepMotion based in the United States and SuperGaming based in India.

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