After the merger with game developer and amusement facility operator Namco, Bandai Co., Ltd. is now under the management of Namco Bandai. After group reorganisation in 2006, Bandai heads the group's Toys and Hobby Strategic Business Unit (SBU).
Bandai was founded in 1900. In the 1960s Bandai expanded to include export sales. Bandai's racing car set, which first appeared in 1962, became a huge success. The 1970s continued to see Bandai expand, with Bandai Models being established in 1971. Although not their most profitable range, Bandai's 1/48 scale AFV models dominated that segment of the model kit market. Bandai America Inc. was established as local US sales/marketing operation in 1978. Since the 1980s, Bandai has become the leading toy company of Japan, and to this day, has the main toy licenses in Japan to popular properties including Daikaiju, Ultraman, Super Robot, Kamen Rider, the Super Sentai and Power Rangers series (which they took part in creating), Gundam and many others. The management of Bandai and Sega discussed a merger in the late 1990s, but the merger was later cancelled, citing "cultural differences".
Before the formation of Namco Bandai Holdings, Bandai had many subsidiaries. After group reorganisation in 2006, they are managed under several strategic business units (SBUs) of the group. Further detail:
Toys and Hobby SBU
Bandai USA (doing business as Bandai America) is the American distribution arm of Bandai that makes toy products for the U.S. market and manufactures Power Rangers, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, and Ben 10 toys. Other past products include
- Alienators: Evolution Continues
- Astro Boy (2003 TV series)
- Big Bad Beetleborgs /Beetleborgs Mettalix
- Dick Tracy (film)
- Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
- Saint Seiya - for American distribution, it was relabeled Knights of The Zodiac
- Masked Rider
- Mega Man
- Sailor Moon
- Tamagotchi Connection
- The Tick
- Teen Titans
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog
- Ultimate Muscle
- Xyber 9: New Dawn
During the early '80s, Bandai distributed a number of videogame machines. In 1982 the Bandai Arcadia, a variant of the Emerson Arcadia 2001, was released in Japan by Bandai. There were also 4 Japan-only game releases which were the only known Arcadia titles written by other companies than UA Ltd. They also released local variants of the Intellivision and vectrex game consoles.
Bandai produced a running mat called the Family Fun Fitness System for the Nintendo Entertainment System starting in 1986. A series of games was released both in the US and in Japan, including Athletic World and Stadium Events for the NES. Shortly after its release, Nintendo purchased the rights to the FFF mat in North America, replacing it with their own redesign, the Power Pad. In order to maintain branding continuity, Stadium Events was pulled from shelves after a short period of availability at Woolworth's Department Stores. Due to the fact that the game was pulled from shelves and discontinued before many copies were sold, Bandai's Stadium Events is universally accepted as the rarest licensed NES game released in North America. The sister game to Stadium Events, called Athletic World was initially released with a label that indicated compatibility with the Family Fun Fitness mat, but was later re-released with an updated label that mentions the Power Pad instead. Stadium Events was not released again, but instead was slightly modified and relaunched as the Power Pad pack-in game, World Class Track Meet.
In the '90s, Bandai teamed up with Apple to make the The Pippin. They also made their own game console, the Playdia. Neither was a mass-market success. In 1999, Bandai created the Wonderswan portable game system. It and its update, the Wonderswan Color, sold modestly well, but were unable to seriously challenge the dominant Game Boy Color and later, the Game Boy Advance. It was discontinued in 2003.