A look at the UK’s first Bandai Namco Cross Store

bandai namco cross store

We head to Camden for the launch of the first Bandai Namco Cross Store outside of Japan, with figurines, merch, Gashapon and arcades under one roof.


It’s been a while since I last explored Camden Market, but my recollection is that it houses tons of shops and food stalls, and they’re all a compact size. It’s therefore not where I would have expected to find the location of the UK’s Bandai Namco Cross Store, which officially opens today (18th August), the first of its kind outside of Japan.

But deep in the Stables Market, the Japanese company has taken over the three-storey Provender Building for what it calls a ‘retail experience store’ where visitors can ‘see’, ‘touch’, and ‘experience’ the characters, products, art and Japanese culture from Bandai Namco. Which is to say, yes, it’s a physical store where you can pick up and buy things at a till (apart from the very fancy figurines that are confined to glass display cases, which does undermine the whole ‘touch’ element), which perhaps does sound like a game-changing concept in the post-pandemic digital age.

bandai namco cross store

Credit: Bandai Namco.

Putting my snark to one side, however, and there’s something special about seeing a Japanese company have a physical presence in London that’s not just the Japan Centre, and certainly a more permanent location than, say, a pop-up Pokémon Centre.

“During the Coronavirus lockdown, we found more people exposed to and getting familiar with Japanese IPs and anime through Netflix and Crunchyroll, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to try and bring Bandai Namco’s physical merchandise and products to the UK market,” says Suguru Ueda, manager of Bandai Namco’s IP development. “When we looked around various places, Camden is a unique and eclectic place with a mix and match of cultures, which also attracts a lot of foreigners and tourists, so we felt Camden was a good match for us.”

Given how more people are buying games digitally these days, it’s nice to see Bandai Namco’s games physically in store, and at the entrance of its retail space where it’s also advertising the upcoming Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. But that’s just a small section of the Cross Store, which essentially houses six other ‘shops’, or rather mini departments with one central till.

bandai namco cross store

Credit: Bandai Namco.

These are nonetheless brands making their UK debut, such as anime figurine store MegaHouse, the Sun-Star stationery shop, while Ichibankuji brings the concept of buying lottery tickets to win random prizes, which might sound familiar to anyone who’s blown a lot of yen doing the same thing at the convenience stores in Shenmue.

It’s the ground floor of the Cross Store that’s perhaps more fascinating for me, where half is populated with Gashapon machines, while there’s also an arcade to the back. Rows and stacks of these toy capsule dispensers are a common sight in Japan, and it’s also quite neatly categorised, so you have anime and manga at one end, and ‘living things’ on the other. Again, it’s random just how specific or mundane some of these collectables are, but it’s also interesting to see these machines in person. Hopefully it’ll dispel the negative connotations gacha has with the lootboxes that have pervaded gaming in recent years.

Because while digitally pulling a gacha has ridiculously stingy odds, and you could be getting something amongst thousands of potential items, with the physical machines, each one is already specifically categorised. For instance, if you want the Kirby toys, then you go to the Kirby Gashapon, and while it might take a lot of pulls to collect the whole set, at least you know you’re not going to get a random paper weight from it. That isn’t to say there isn’t a bit of a racket to the set-up, as the number of tokens required for each machine likely means you’re likely to be short on making another pull with the minimum set of tokens you paid for – unless, of course, you buy some more tokens.

bandai namco cross store

Credit: Bandai Namco.

The arcade, meanwhile, is rather disappointing if you’re seeking some proper classics. Sure, I can see why they’d have the crowd-pleasing and Namco-developed Mario Kart arcade (replace it with OutRun 2, however, and then we’re talking), but Minecraft Dungeons Arcade and Dance Dance Revolution clone Step ManiaX feel less inspired. Its presence is still welcome, even if it’s not quite a successor to Namco Funscape London, which was sadly closed just two years ago. “Our fundamental business is in arcades, so our DNA relies on amusement operations,” says Ueda. “So we are confident that we can mix that with other kinds of experiences to generate a synergy effect.”

Of course, this is still basically a store to sell and showcase Bandai Namco’s products and its licenses with many beloved manga and anime franchises (and Kirby). But given the real estate available, used during the launch event to teach visitors how to play the One Piece card game, it may also have potential as a space where other brands can come to collaborate, either with events or exhibitions furthering the mission of showcasing Japanese culture.

Credit: Bandai Namco.

If the Camden Cross Store proves successful, it may also be a signal for Bandai Namco to expand the concept to other locations, and even other countries. Of course, its other existing arcade operations means it already has a good foundation for this stuff, with Newcastle Funscape also being home to the UK’s first One Piece Card Game official shop.

For those who can’t afford the cost of flying all the way to Japan, we can only hope that the Cross Store inspires other Japanese gaming companies to bring their own Japanese gaming culture and products to the UK. I can see the queues for a Nintendo Store London already.

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