Gundam is probably Bandai Namco’s most widely recognized franchise with successful anime, physical merchandise, and video games under its name. Gundam pioneered the concept of using visual media to sell mecha models known as Gunpla. Although Gundam is more popular in Japan than in the West, the contribution that the franchise has brought to the mecha genre and later American cartoons is undeniable. The influence of this franchise is such that it’s growing strong even today, and as Bandai Namco looks into ambitious projects, Gundam looks like the prime candidate for a foray into novelty.
In February, Bandai Namco announced a $ 140 million investment into an “IP Metaverse.” It’s only a month later that fans would come to find that the mystery IP in question for this Metaverse project was none other than Gundam. This virtual platform plans to fuse physical and digital Gundam content on a single virtual space with an official “The Gundam Base Gunpla Colony Store” virtual space testing in the fall before launching in 2023, aiming to operate a large-scale Metaverse by 2025. If certain details provided from the various press conferences held about the Gundam Metaverse sound familiar, it’s because they sound a lot like a bona fide VR version of Roblox on paper, with mecha instead of blocky avatars.
How Roblox Works
Roblox is a creative sandbox game first launched in 2006 by the Roblox Corporation, which has recently taken over Activision Blizzard as the most valuable gaming company. This rise in popularity is partly thanks to the game’s meme status which is largely driven by user-generated content. Roblox provides players of all ages with programming tools in Roblox Studio that users can use to make their own games on the platform, and the only creative limit is the creator’s imagination. Players can purchase upgrades and assets with Robux, the in-game virtual currency.
As of late, the Roblox Corporation filed a patent for 3D models. The process described in the patent would allow users to create 3D models with more ease by molding them from 2D images with the assistance of machine learning instead of having to create them from scratch. This transition to 3D user content is not occurring in a vacuum, and this latest move from Roblox is merely suggestive of a trend that other companies like Bandai Namco are also looking to follow. This emphasis on user-generated assets might just be the next revolution in gaming, and even beyond.
The Mobile Suit Gundam Metaverse plans to integrate all aspects of Gundam from anime, music, games, and Gunpla themselves. Each category will have its own dedicated Colony that are connected to each other through the SIDE-G space hub. On this virtual platform, users will be able to purchase Gunpla and upload images of their Gunpla along with data. This data can then be used to interact with other players and battle against them. The platform is only scheduled to launch in 2023 and be fully operational in 2025, meaning some details are vague, but it also means that there are a lot of features left to be fleshed out. With some effort, Bandai Namco could turn this Metaverse project into the VR Roblox with mecha.
Bandai Namco President Masaru Kawaguchi stated as part of the project’s announcement that the platform would be a mechanism to deepen the connection with fans. If that is truly the case, then the best way to entice players to partake in this experiment would be to allow for Roblox-style user-generated content. Players who invest time and money to develop their own mechas or their own part of a colony will be more incentivized to keep coming back to the platform. The only concern with a Metaverse is whether Bandai Namco will go down the NFT route, but that’s neither here nor there right now.
Gundam Evolution Is Not a Coincidence
To address the elephant in the room, the highly anticipated Gundam Evolution FPS is scheduled for launch anytime in 2022. The trailer for the upcoming game showcased several familiar Gundam mechas, and the timing is no coincidence. In the latest Gundam press conference, an esports colony is planned for induction into the Gundam Metaverse. The esports scene for the platform will not only focus on Gundam Evolutionbut also Gundam Mobile Suit: Battle Operation 2, a popular mobile game launched in 2018. With Bandai Namco’s project aiming to develop a deeper connection with fans, an esports scene is the most straightforward way for players to interact with each other as well as the IP.
2022 is a Big Year for Bandai Namco
It goes without saying that 2022 is not only a big year for Gundam, but also for Bandai Namco at large. A new Gundam anime series called Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury was announced, the Gundam Mobile Suit: Cucuruz Doan’s Island movie is hitting Japanese theaters in June 2022, and the popular Gundam IBO universe is welcoming a brand new mobile game in Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphan: Urdr-Hunt in spring 2022. Not to mention, all the other things going on at Bandai, but these additions are even more exciting when considering that their respective elements will all be integrated into the Mobile Suit Gunam Metaverse platform. However, the virtual reality ambitions of Bandai Namco do not stop at Gundam.
In the long run, the company is planning to integrate other Bandai Namco IP on the platform as well. These include big names like Elden Ring, Digimon, One Pieceand Dragon Ball. With such a stacked portfolio, this Metaverse project could not only attract fans of all those franchises, but also contribute to the platform’s user-generated aspect by allowing players to create content with elements from all those different universes.
Mobile Suit Gundam Metaverse is in development.
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