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Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone

We chat exclusively to OnePlus' head of product about its latest collaboration.

Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone
Marc Chacksfield
16 November 2021

OnePlus's latest handset is perhaps the company's best collaboration yet. Teaming up with BANDAI NAMCO it has created the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition, a 'gamified' version of its popular Nord 2 device that was released earlier in the year.

The handset is packed with PAC-MAN Easter eggs, both from a hardware and a software point of view, and showcases a love for the pellet-eating protagonist while being a OnePlus handset at its core.

This isn't the first limited edition the company has released, having teamed up with the likes of McLaren and CyberPunk 2077 for previous launches, but it's certainly the most playful.

To find out more, OnePlus exclusively chatted to the company's head of product, Oliver Zhang, about how the collaboration came about and just what goes into making a limited edition OnePlus phone.

Spoiler: a lot!

The OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition will be available with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage for €529/£499.

Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone

ShortList: OnePlus is well known for its special editions – how do you go about choosing the right brand for the right phone?

Oliver Zhang, OnePlus: When it comes to creating special editions, we consider those brands and IP labels that can bring a refreshing and meaningful experience to our community at a level of quality we stand behind. We focus on ensuring we have a partner who is also looking to bring their product to life in a unique manner. In addition, we also focus on collaborating with brands and IP labels that make sense within our product portfolio. Pairing the right brand or IP label with the right OnePlus product is fundamental to creating a compelling and meaningful special edition.

Special edition OnePlus smartphones need to excel in two key areas. First, they need to be able to deliver the signature Fast and Smooth experience OnePlus is known for. Second, they should be refreshing, exciting, and memorable. We believe both objectives are best achieved with deep hardware and software customizations that work together intimately to deliver a product that goes beyond the sum of its parts and provides an exciting experience.

SL: Tell us about how the Nord 2 Pac-Man Edition collaboration came about.

OZ: We decided to collaborate with PAC-MAN because the IP’s colorful personality, cast of iconic characters, and intuitive gameplay presented a unique opportunity to create a special edition OnePlus device more refreshing, exciting, and memorable than anything we had done before. It also allowed us to merge the universes of Nord and PAC-MAN – both of which have fun at their very core.

The end result is the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition – a device complete with fully customized hardware and software. It is also the first ever OnePlus device to come with a gamified user experience.

Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone

SL: The design on the back of the phone is striking – how was it created? Were there any design or technical issues you had to overcome?

OZ: From a conceptual level, we wanted to create a special edition color, material, and finish (CMF) that seamlessly merged OnePlus’s design philosophy of simplicity and elegance with the colorful and charming world of PAC-MAN. We worked on a variety of prototypes that featured differing PAC-MAN characters and OnePlus design elements before the device was finalized. The entire design process – from concept to the first devices being manufactured – was 8 months.

The OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition’s CMF is made using a dual layer film. We wanted the rear of the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition to showcase the classic PAC-MAN maze, but we also wanted to add Nord elements to it. Thus, the idea of a glow-in-the-dark back was conceptualized and brought to life by adding phosphorescent ink to the device’s innermost film. Meanwhile, the outermost film is glass – decorated with PAC-MAN himself and the game’s iconic PAC-Dots.

One of the biggest technical challenges when creating any custom CMF is yield rate – the more complex a CMF design is, the lower the yield rate. This means that when devices are being produced, there are a higher number that do not receive final approval, therefore are not shipped to customers or sent to retailers.

SL: The Pac-Man customisation is both inside and out of the Nord 2 – tell us about how you created the Custom UI / animations. Did you have help from the makers of Pac-Man?

OZ: From the very beginning, we wanted to make exploring OxygenOS on the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition feel like playing the PAC-MAN game. To deliver such an experience, we knew we would have to take all learnings from previous OnePlus special editions – such as making custom themes, wallpapers, and ringtones – and take things to the next level.

After many rounds of conceptualizing how we would deliver an elevated software experience, OnePlus teams at HQ, India, and Europe – working together with BANDAI NAMCO – came up with the idea of integrating game mechanics into the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition’s user experience. This was achieved by creating a series of challenges and Easter eggs that, once completed and found, would unlock rewards on the device in the form of custom PAC-MAN software items.

The OnePlus HQ and EU teams, in collaboration with BANDAI NAMCO, designed the majority of software customizations for the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition, such as custom wallpapers, animations, and reimagined app icons. Meanwhile, the OnePlus India software team developed the exciting challenges and Easter eggs present in the device.

Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone

SL: This is the second gaming collaboration for OnePlus (the first being CyberPunk 2077), what is it about gaming that makes it a good fit for the OnePlus brand?

OZ: Gaming is an incredible medium that will always be important to OnePlus. In the past, we have collaborated with partners such as Fnatic to bring different experiences to our community. Our devices have a prominent gaming mode that helps them excel at their choice of game with limited disturbance.

Being able to work with the incredible characters, worlds, and visual directions brought to life by development studios across the globe affords us with endless creative opportunities to make a meaningful special edition product.

PAC-MAN is an IP label with a vaunted history of over four decades – the game has been an endlessly entertaining part of the OnePlus staff and community’s lives. The artistic direction, characters, and gameplay of PAC-MAN gave us the opportunity to create a special edition that takes custom hardware and software to the next level. The OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition does this with a reimagined CMF complete with phosphorescent ink so that, when used in the dark, the device exhibits a neon maze inspired by the PAC-MAN game.

On a software level, the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition redesigns the app icons of OxygenOS with a new pixelated aesthetic inspired by lo-fi video games. The user interface is full of unique nods to PAC-MAN, such as the fingerprint unlock animation that showcases PAC-MAN evading ghosts Blinky and Inky. And, to celebrate PAC-MAN’s addictive gameplay loop, we also created a series of system-level challenges for the user to complete in order to unlock various PAC-MAN items such as stickers and wallpapers, making the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition the first OnePlus phone with a gamified user experience.

Exclusive: How OnePlus created the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition phone

SL: Pac-Man is seen as a retro-gaming icon, were you concerned that this would make the Nord 2 feel like a ‘retro’ phone?

OZ: We indeed wanted to recreate that feeling users had when they first played PAC-MAN. One could consider PAC-Man to either be retro or an iconic game that is still played by children and adults of all ages.

One of our primary goals when designing the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition was to create a device that seamlessly merged the worlds of both OnePlus Nord and PAC-MAN. We achieved this by combining OnePlus’s simple and elegant design philosophy with PAC-MAN elements such as the game’s PAC-Dots and PAC-MAN himself. We believe the design of the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition will appeal to our community universally.

SL: Can we expect more fun collaborations in the future?

OZ: OnePlus will continue to explore collaborations with brands and IP labels for future products. We look forward to bringing more delightful and enthralling experiences to life.