Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Interview with Limited Run Games

I was happy to be able to once again chat with Josh Fairhurst from Mighty Rabbit Studios about a new venture for him and his team. They are breaking into physical game releases via their new company Limited Run Games. The first game to be a part of this will be the Vita version of Breach & Clear, a game that Josh talked to us about back in April. In that interview, he hinted at his desire to release Mighty Rabbit games in physical form, so we're happy to see that come to pass. Now we talk about how this came to pass and what it means for the future, especially in terms of limited run Vita physical releases.

Michael A Cunningham (Pocket-Console): What sparked your desire to start Limited Run Games and to self-publish physical copies?

Josh Fairhurst (Limited Run Games/Mighty Rabbit Studios): 
Physical games are pretty important to me. I’ve been collecting them for nearly three decades and I was able to start my game development company on the back of selling used games through eBay. I’m not a huge fan of digital games, because I’m not keen on the idea that I don’t actually own the things I buy. Given the opportunity, I’ll take physical over digital any day of the week. I know there are more people out there like me, so it felt right to start something like Limited Run Games.

To top it off, it’s always been a dream of mine to have a game published physically on an actual console. When I saw what Brian Provinciano pulled off with Retro City Rampage – I knew now was the time to make my dream a reality.

MAC: Why did you decide to take this route instead of working with someone like Fangamer (Retro City Rampage DX)?

I actually contacted Fangamer with this idea several months ago and got no response. I took that as a lack of interest and decided it made more sense to forge ahead on my own. In hindsight, I think they were busy with Bloostained and didn't have time to respond. In any case, I'm completely talking out of my butt here, but I think Retro City Rampage being on Fangamer had more to do with Brian Provinciano than it did with Fangamer – as in, I don’t think Fangamer necessarily had any desire to break into physical game publishing. RCR already had an affiliate shop through Fangamer for existing merch, so when the physical games came along it just made sense to sell them there.

In the end, I think the approach we're taking makes more sense. With no distributor or middle-men, developers will stand to earn a larger share of the money than they would if a distributor was involved.

Also, unlike Fangamer (or at least I presume) we’re set up with the major platform holders as both a publisher and developer, so we can assist fellow developers in every aspect of getting a physical game to market. We have dev kits in house for every major console allowing us to help with quality assurance and testing. If Fangamer was to be utilized for a physical release, I presume they’d only really be able to help with distribution and funding. Manufacturing, testing, packaging, product ordering, and other hurdles would still be on your shoulders. Limited Run Games will handle everything for devs (from concept approval to product fulfillment)!

MAC: To what extent was Breach & Clear being on Vita what helped it become your first Limited Run project?

Breach & Clear was the first game Mighty Rabbit Studios (parent company to Limited Run Games) shipped on an "official" console or handheld. Naturally, it made sense that we should take a gamble on it and make it our first physical release. The physical release of the game ended up giving us more time to clean up the game, fix bugs, and adjust based on reviews of the digital version, so that was a nice bonus. Really, if we could have published any game in the world to launch Limited Run Games with we'd probably have picked something else that would have created more buzz. The problem with that is why would any other developers trust us before we had our own physical release? Breach & Clear is being utilized as a test run to show other developers that we can do this, and we can do it right. It's also going to hopefully show that people are still hungry for physical Vita releases, which seem to really be drying up recently.

MAC: You mentioned on Twitter that PS4 projects would have a lower production cost than Vita, so will that be a focus early on over Vita titles? Are Sony products going to be the main focus for now?

Sony consoles and handhelds are the main focus right now, and that's due to how progressive Sony is with allowing smaller publishers to do physical runs. I can't go into detail, but their minimum order quantities are incredibly reasonable compared to Microsoft and Nintendo. I don't get the feeling that either of the latter want to waste their time with smaller print runs. This is just one more reason on the pile of reasons to develop for Sony.

Due to the proprietary cartridge format of Vita games, production costs are about 50% higher. With our earlier releases we plan to stagger them by releasing PS4 discs first, when possible, followed by Vita carts. We'd do this to utilize any gains from the PS4 run to fund the Vita run. That said, we definitely plan to publish Vita exclusive games - we'll just have to stick to smaller print runs on those until we've built up our funds a bit.

MAC: What are your plans for working with other devs on limited print runs? Anything in the works already?

We currently have a list of over forty games that we'd love to bring into the physical realm. It's a good mix of PS4 and Vita titles both upcoming and already released. We're already in talks with a few developers and their games are awesome - I wish I could say more! If any of your readers have a favorite game that isn't available physically, they should definitely feel free to drop our name to that game's developer.

MAC: I have to ask, how's Saturday Morning RPG for Vita coming along? Any issues or roadblocks you've having to overcome? Vague ETA?

It should be out in January! We've been finishing up the fifth episode, and we're working to ship it simultaneously on around 10 platforms (Vita included!). As you might imagine - it's a bit of a nightmare for our testers! A physical version of Saturday Morning RPG will be available around the same time through Limited Run Games.

MAC: Anything else you'd like to share about Limited Run Games, upcoming handheld gaming news, or perhaps just a message you'd like to leave with #TeamHandheld?

Please follow Limited Run Games on Twitter and Facebook to get all the latest news from us. Our releases are actually limited (we're not doing reprints), so if you're interested in getting your hands on our releases, following us is the best way to get first dibs! For #TeamHandheld - thanks for you and your community's enthusiasm for all things Vita. I love my Vita and it's up to all of us to keep it alive by continuing to support it in any way we can!

Pocket-Console and #TeamHandheld would like to thank Josh Fairhurst and the Limited Run Games team for their support of handheld gaming and for taking part in this interview. Readers should keep an eye on the Limited Run Games on Twitter and Facebook accounts for info on the physical release of Breach & Clear, and fans should follow the Mighty Rabbit team on Twitter for info on upcoming games, including the upcoming Saturday Morning RPG for Vita.

Also, watch out for fun surprise here on Pocket-Console later next week. Details soon.


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  2. There are so many indie games I would like to see a physical release of, for example Cosmic Star Heroine. I have bookmarked the webpage and will be checking it daily in hopes of securing a copy. I would suggest not allowing someone to buy multiple copies of your limited editions; this may prevent the secondary market from getting a ride on your back.