Everyday Life Filled with International Flair, at BANDAI NAMCO Mobile in Barcelona

The BANDAI NAMCO Group is not only active in Japan – The company also has an extensive presence throughout the globe, working in a different environment to Japan. What kind of life do the people who work at those overseas offices live, what sort of tasks are they doing? We will explore the identity and thoughts of some of the BANDAI NAMCO Employees working throughout the world.

For this article, we talked with Toshihiko Naoe and Haruki Watanabe from the new BANDAI NAMCO Mobile office in Barcelona, Spain, which began operations in September 2020.

*This article was originally released in Japan on February 4, 2021.

Located in a beach front office, with stunning views of the Sea on one side and the City of Barcelona to the other. The office hosts a diverse staff of more than 10 different nationalities.

At the BANDAI NAMCO Mobile headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, Toshihiko Naoe and Haruki Watanabe carry out marketing, development, and publishing for the rapidly growing mobile game market. What sort of things are different in Barcelona, compared to Japan? They spoke to us about their Life in Barcelona, including Work, Food and Lifestyle.

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Toshihiko Naoe

Place of assignment: Barcelona, Spain
Assigned to: BANDAI NAMCO Mobile S.L.
Period of assignment: August 2020–

Naoe joined the company mid-career in 2007. Initially he was handling business deployment and sales for feature phones and smartphones in the Asian region. He then served as platform relation manager for domestic platforms, before going BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America in 2014 (then known as NAMCO BANDAI Games America) in the United States.

At his fifth year in the U.S., he led a team as the head of mobile business. In August 2020 he moved to Barcelona, where he now runs the mobile division of the Licensing & Business Strategy team for both Europe and the U.S., and he is involved in a wide range of duties aimed at maximizing the company’s value globally

Basic flow of Naoe’s day

[9:00] Starts work. Checks emails and holds a video conference with Japan. Mornings are spent mostly interacting with Japan.
[13:30] Lunch time starts late in Spain, so around this time he gets take-out from a nearby restaurant and eats it in the office’s cafe space.
[14:30] Meeting with local members and desk work.
[17:00] Video conference with the U.S. (west coast) team. Discuss on collaboration and tasks between Europe and the U.S. to verify tasks, followed by Desk work.
[19:00] Goes home.

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Haruki Watanabe

Place of assignment: Barcelona, Spain
Assigned to: BANDAI NAMCO Mobile S.L.
Period of assignment: February 2020–

Watanabe joined the company as a recent graduate in 2015. Responsible for handling domestic promotion of smartphone apps.

Watanabe then moved to marketing for Europe and the U.S., before going to BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment UK in 2018. In 2020 he moved to Barcelona, where as part of the Licensing & Business Strategy team, he works on a wide variety of duties aimed at expanding the global market for app titles that are managed by both the European and Japanese entities.

Basic flow of Watanabe’s day

[9:30] Starts work, checks emails.
[10:00] Holds a video conference with Japan. Due to the time difference, mornings are spent mostly interacting with Japan.
[13:30] Lunch, either take-out or with coworkers at a restaurant near the office.
[14:30] Meeting with the local marketing team, and desk work.
[17:00] Takes Spanish lessons, offered internally for those who wish to learn.
[18:00] Checks various materials and creations coming in from the marketing team, as well as online ad delivery settings, etc.
[19:30] Goes home.

Please tell us what the work you’re doing now entails.

Naoe: Watanabe and I are on the Licensing & Business Strategy team, Our goal is to assess what stage the team around us is at and finding solutions that lead towards enhancing the company and then to implement the solution. That’s one of our main tasks and we are given a high level of freedom in our roles to complete this to the best of our ability. Being able to detect problems and to solve them is important, so I think it’s also a job that is significantly challenging. At the moment, one example of such a challenge is the review of BANDAI NAMCO Mobile’s strategy and structure as a part of BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment’s overseas strategy, among other things. We also support communication between Japan, the U.S., and Spain.

Watanabe: Within that, I handle more of the local, hands-on tasks compared to Naoe. I carry out marketing support for BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment titles that are distributed from Japan to Europe and the U.S, as well as liaising with the group companies in various countries, including approval support of game plans and materials for titles that are developed and managed locally.

What kind of place is your office located in?

Naoe: The BANDAI NAMCO Mobile office is located in a high-rise that’s iconic even for Barcelona. It’s a place that also has a lot of different companies as well as the Dutch consulate in it, and it has an amazing view. You can even see the Sagrada Familia from our meeting rooms.

Watanabe: The building itself is built on the beach. Barcelona is a compact city, so while it’s at a distance that can be accessed quickly from downtown by train, it’s an environment that has the beach and mountains nearby as well.

When I first came here, it had an even more open feel than what I’d been told, and I thought, “Am I really going to work here?” I was surprised (laughs). It’s an area with a lot of tourists in the summertime, and there are a lot of nice hotels and restaurants with terrace seats out along the beach. Just going out for lunch is refreshing, thanks to the wonderful view and the smell of the ocean. The staff like it too, and I feel that productivity has also risen due to a good work-life balance.

The scenery in the vicinity of the office
The scenery in the vicinity of the office

Please tell us what it’s like in the office.

Naoe: BANDAI NAMCO Mobile has a position called “Office Happiness Manager”, whose mission is to see how much they can boost the satisfaction level of the staff. For the office, too, in order to provide an environment where the staff can work comfortably and effectively, these managers took the lead in setting up a cafe space and offering free coffee and snacks. Every meeting room is designed with interior decorating that fits a theme, like the Gundam Room, the TEKKEN Room, and the Tamagotchi Room, along with the liveliness of the characters that the BANDAI NAMCO Group is known for.

TEKKEN-themed meeting room
TEKKEN-themed meeting room
Tamagotchi-themed meeting room
Tamagotchi-themed meeting room

Watanabe: With all the staff members putting forth their maximum productivity and creativity, we’re working hard to create an environment where we can achieve our mission as a company. For example, we have both large meeting rooms and small, individual rooms where one person can do a video conference; there are lockers for storing personal items and a tatami room where staff can take their shoes off and relax, as well as a massage room, among others. We’ve also simplified internal rules as much as we can, enabling employees to concentrate on their work for as much time as possible. Actually, even before the corona virus crisis, attendance in the office everyday was not mandatory, and staff were allowed to work from home. But I think that creating an environment that makes people naturally want to come into the office is working well, as it provides an opportunity for staff to interact and to really get to know each other.

BANDAI NAMCO Mobile has staff of many different nationalities. Is Spanish the language you use to communicate? And what is the office ambiance like?

Naoe: We communicate in English as the base language, but we have staff of more than 10 different nationalities, so there is a lot of diversity. There are actually a lot of different languages flying around (laughs). Also, in response to the desire of some staff to learn Spanish, which is the local language, we’re providing Spanish lessons for those who would like to learn. On the other hand, there are some local staff who want to learn Japanese, so we are also providing Japanese lessons for those who are interested.

Because we have that diversity, we have adopted a flexible work style to accommodate it. In an environment where people of different nationalities and cultures coexist, it is important not only for each of us to take responsibility for our work, but also to be able to talk about things openly. For that reason, we advocate pro-actively giving constructive feedback to other members, and we have a flat organizational structure without any hierarchical relations like that of a boss and subordinates. So I think BANDAI NAMCO Mobile’s office has an extremely open ambiance running through it.

Like Watanabe also said, we’re all expected to fulfill our roles and show results, so we look closely at how efficiently people carry out their duties and how strong their performance is, and we give the right degree of freedom to each individual staff member. We treat all staff members as adults and call on them to meet their individual and team responsibilities. It’s an organizational philosophy that views freedom and responsibility as a set. Also, rather than the usual evaluation done between the managers and other staff, we constantly give feedback to each other. So if someone’s individual performance level, for example, has a negative impact on those around them, they will be evaluated accordingly. This idea serves to make each of us keenly aware of our responsibility.

The marketing team's area
The marketing team’s area
Meeting including members in the office and working from home
Meeting including members in the office and working from home

With connections to all sorts of different people, here in the international city of Barcelona, the BANDAI NAMCO Group aims to reach the whole world.

What kinds of places do you go to for breaks from work, like for lunch and going out for drinks? Tell us your favorite place or a restaurant you would recommend.

Watanabe: There’s a restaurant with Spanish cuisine near the office that is everyone’s favorite. It has a course menu, like with an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert, and you can eat paella there from a big pot, even at lunchtime.

Paella at a restaurant near the office
Paella at a restaurant near the office

Naoe: For me, the commute to the office is actually a break. By train, it takes me 50 minutes to get from home to the office. But Barcelona has well-developed bicycle lanes, so I make about a 30-minute commute on an electric scooter, while feeling the wind and enjoying the city streets. I used to work in the U.S., in California, and from the streets of Barcelona I feel a completely different, European vibe with a kind of historical weight to it.

Naoe commuting on an electric scooter
Naoe commuting on an electric scooter

What’s your impression of Barcelona?

Watanabe: I was surprised at how late the daily life cycle is overall, since basically lunch starts at 1 pm, and dinner is after 8 pm. Maybe because of that kind of lifestyle, there’s a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, I also get the impression that there are a lot of people with open personalities. In my case, I moved to Barcelona from London, England, but even though they’re both in Europe, they’re totally different. Barcelona is a richly international city, so not only are there tourists but there are also people of lots of different nationalities who live here for work or study. That means that, in my personal life as well, I can connect with people who have all kinds of cultural backgrounds, making every day exciting. London was an international city, too, but in Spain’s case it’s also on adjoining land with France and other neighboring countries, so in cultural terms as well, it feels like there’s more international breadth.

Naoe: In California, too, there were many different ethnic groups, including a lot of Asians, but there aren’t many Asians in Barcelona. I’m having trouble with the fact that I can’t get much Japanese food (laughs). Another thing that surprised me is that a lot of things are digitalized. Of course that includes payments by credit card, but you can also request online for luggage to be mailed, and there is a thriving food delivery industry; it seems like if you have a smartphone, you can do anything. Even with the historical-feeling, European look of the streets, in terms of digitalization it may be more advanced than California. To me, that gap is interesting.

A delivery app for ordering food as well as a variety of other items
A delivery app for ordering food as well as a variety of other items

How has the Corona virus impacted BANDAI NAMCO Mobile?

Naoe: BANDAI NAMCO Mobile itself didn’t require the staff to come in to the office every day in the first place, so I don’t feel like there was much impact on the way we work. But personally, difficulties of getting to go back and forth to the U.S. and Japan on business trips has been pretty major. We can communicate online, but as you can imagine, it’s hard to get a sense of “comradery.” That has made the difference (in timing, etc.) between communication that can be done just fine online and communication that needs to be done in person very clear. Communication is especially important for those of us in the Licensing & Business Strategy division, so I feel like that human, emotional part that can’t be measured only with efficiency is important. I think this can be said for game development and marketing, too; it’s important, especially in entertainment, for even things like systems, functions, and promotional content to have emotion and passion within them.

Watanabe: Right now, in terms of the people coming into the office and the people working at home, it’s about half and half. Whilst there are some people I’ve not actually met, I personally feel it’s easier to work together in person. That’s because you can understand a lot more about someone, including their personality, by talking with them for 10 minutes than by exchanging 10 emails. Ordinarily, we would have liked to have done a variety of activities outside of work too, aimed at strengthening relationships between team members, in a team-building format. But for now, we just try to actively communicate in familiar scenarios such as lunch, like this, to get to know people’s personal side, which is hard to see in work-related interactions alone.

Lunch in the office's dining room
Lunch in the office’s dining room

I’m told that BANDAI NAMCO Mobile is in the process of preparing “Welcome Packs” to distribute to employees. What do those consist of?

Watanabe: ”Welcome Packs” are a common part of the culture in European and U.S. companies. It’s a set of novelty goods designed to warmly welcome new staff members and to foster an attachment to the company. The contents are mostly things they can use in the office, such as a company logo-imprinted notebook, towel, water bottle, coffee mug, and so on. At BANDAI NAMCO Mobile, while we will basically use the company’s logo and colors, we plan to also include some character designs, such as from Pac-man and Tamagotchi.

It’s still being prepared, but my personal favorite is the mask. It was not common to wear masks in the western countries, but recently it’s become commonly accepted, and we noticed that people were gradually starting to seek out uniqueness and originality with their masks. So this is an item that came up when our Office Happiness Manager proposed creating an original mask.

Naoe: Also, since Spain has faced severe restrictions on going out and on movement across the region during the coronavirus for such a long time, as part of some support to relieve people’s daily stress and make life a little richer, a gift set called a” Hamper Box” is being given to all our staff members. We are using a local organization that aids and hires people with disabilities to package and ship organic foods grown and produced in the Catalunya area, and the staff loves them, too.

Hamper Box
Hamper Box

Finally, please tell us about what’s rewarding about your current work and your outlook for the future.

Naoe: I feel the responsibility of being involved in the BANDAI NAMCO Group’s overseas growth, especially in the U.S. and Europe, I’m also excited about product development locally with some exceptional personnel. I want to expand the BANDAI NAMCO Group’s presence worldwide, and at the same time, I’d like to make the BANDAI NAMCO Group so rooted everyday life that people forget that it’s a Japanese company.

Watanabe: BANDAI NAMCO Mobile is the first company in the BANDAI NAMCO Group to specialize in the mobile games business. Being based in Barcelona, in this environment where there are a lot of experts in this area of specialization, I personally find every day exciting. I would like to reinforce partnerships among members working in various places like Japan, Europe, and the U.S., while continuing to contribute to building a foundation for the BANDAI NAMCO Group to further expand worldwide.

See here, too, for BANDAI NAMCO Mobile’s mission and for anecdotes from when it was established!
The Future of Mobile Gaming by the All-New Barcelona-Based BANDAI NAMCO Mobile

Haruki Sakagami
Content producer. Writer. Photographer. Active in media and marketing for a wide range of fields including hardware, business, interior design, culture, and tech.