We had the opportunity to sit down with Phil Brannelly at a recent press event for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot to discuss his 25+ year career in the gaming industry, and his approach to spreading the word about the long admired franchise for an entirely new audience.
From an outside perspective looking in, there is an authentic quality to Bandai Namco's enthusiasm for Dragon Ball as a brand that is apparent across every aspect of their operation. Throughout the last few years, they have made great strides to broaden its appeal, with recent efforts like FighterZ and Xenoverse 2 demonstrating a clear willingness to expand into new genres. There's always room for improvement with every title, but there can be no denying the impressive amount of ongoing support for both games.
Enter Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, an action RPG that is being positioned as complimentary to their existing slate (you can read our hands on impressions right ). We were very fortunate to sit down with Phil Brannelly, Marketing Manager for Bandai Namco, who has previous ties to other big publishers like Ubisoft and Acclaim Entertainment. We discussed his background and route into the industry, as well as his strategy for forging new partnerships.
Your work as Marketing Manager for Bandai Namco means you have to cover a broad spectrum of titles. What are your earliest memories of gaming, and following that, what path brought you into the industry?
In 1982, I was 10 years old, and my mate got a ZX Spectrum. We were playing Daley Thompson's Decathlon, Atic Attack... and I convinced my Mum to buy me one about a year later. Since those days, I've gone through most computers and consoles. Commodore 64, on to Amiga... Then I joined [the retailer] GAME. That was my segway into the industry. I'm from a little place called Malvern in Worcestershire. Not many opportunities [to break in to the industry], but I managed to get my foot in the door at GAME in Birmingham, when they opened in 1990.
I was at GAME for four years, then joined CentreGold [a videogame distributor], which is where I moved away from retail into the publishing side. Then, through people you meet in the industry, I ended up at Acclaim Entertainment. By the time I eventually arrived at Ubisoft as a Product Manager, I had moved into the marketing side of things, having always been in sales.
Are there specific things from your formative years on the shop floor at GAME that have transferred over into your career in marketing?
It was a good grounding in remembering to always think about the consumer. The person who's going to buy the game and part with their cash. Having been on the other side of that counter, literally, it's nice to talk to and get to know people. For me, I always think back to what the consumer wants, in anything we do and what we talk about.
We've got a lot of experience on the PR side of how to run days like this [hands on event], but with anything on my side where we're working with advertising creatives, I've always got an opinion about that. For example, pre-order widgets [free giveaways] that retailers push. I've never been a big fan of that. I'm very much in the same mold as [Cyberpunk 2077 developer] CD Projekt Red and their strategy that the gamer should always get everything at the same time, and the same as everybody else.
Pre-order widgets are a good way for retailers to drive market share, but as a publisher and developer, this doesn't drive new people to buy. It just causes confusion over where to buy a game with a key ring or a t-shirt. We want to give people the choice of wherever they want to buy something, so they know they're going to get the same as any other retailer.
A massive thank you to Phil Brannelly for his time, as well as Gemma Cooper, and the team at Bandai Namco for hosting such a fantastic event.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot launches on 17th January 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.