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Namco is a Japanese video game publisher and developer. It is part of Namco Sammy Holdings.
Namco was founded as Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955. The company ran children's' rides in Yokohama. The company received its modern name "Namco" in 1958 as a shortened form of "Nakamura AmusementMachine Manufacturing Company". In 1970, the company created its first "game," a mechanical driving simulator.
Meanwhile, by 1974, Atari's Japanese subsidiary "Atari Japan" was having financial difficulties. Atari's owner Nolan Bushnell sought to sell the company to the highest bidder. Namco's bid was the highest, and the company eventually paid half a million dollars. The deal secured Namco exclusive rights to distribute Atari's games in Japan for ten years.
Namco began creating original video games with 1978's Gee Bee. The next few years were full of major hits for Namco, including Galaxian, Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, and Xevious.
After the video game crash of 1983, Namco became one of Nintendo's first licensees for the NES. By 1989, NES games alone accounted for 40% of Namco's income. However, Namco eventually lost some of the early rights Nintendo had given them, leading to their supporting Sega more during the fourth console generation.
In 1989, Namco worked with NEC on their PC Engine console. However, this worried Hudson Soft, another collaborator on the PC Engine, which felt that they might be abandoned in favor of the legendary Namco. This ultimately led to the platform's failure.
After Ohga Shrugs
In the 1990's, Namco continued its arcade business by releasing some of the first major 3D games. Titles such as Ridge Racer, Soul Edge, and the Tekken series became arcade staples. However, the limits of consoles at the time prevented these games from being ported to them. The main exception to this rule was the console-specific Tales series, which flourished as one of the preeminent RPG franchises for the Saturn.
Namco finally became a major player in the console market again during the early 2000's, especially with ports of their 3D fighting games. Soulcalibur 2 in particular was one of the most popular fighting games of the console generation.
In 2004, Sammy Corporation was seeking to expand its arcade business to the video game realm. It saw Namco as a worthy addition, and the two companies would soon merge. Namco Sammy Holdings was officially formed on October 1, 2004.
Since the merger with Sammy, Namco's nature has changed, though not as a result of the merger. With the decline of the arcade business, especially after the Dreamcast's obsolescence made porting games more difficult and expensive, Namco was forced to adapt itself and its franchises to home consoles. Games like Soul Calibur IV and Tekken 6 were specifically made with consoles in mind. Meanwhile, the Tales series continued to be well received.