One million is an extraordinary number, especially in the video game world. Yet, although they offer physical titles in limited quantities, Limited Run Games defied the odds and just clenched a legendary one million sales. Just as impressive, this was achieved by a young five-year-old company that has seen a lot of growth since.
CEO of Limited Run Games Josh Fairhurst—also one of the company's founders—talked with TechRaptor about his company's journey to great success and the very exciting plans for the future.
Limited Run Games' Journey to Success
Here's a story all too familiar to many game developers around the world: Their game has a lot of great ratings, but it just never got into the hands of too many people. This was the case with Josh Fairhurst, who, in addition to being the CEO of Limited Run, also is the president of Mighty Rabbit Studios.
Fairhurst's studio had just released a game called Breach & Clear, which lacked in sales and almost resulted in Might Rabbit's shutdown altogether. Fairhurst's last ditch effort was to brazenly convince the studio's partner to do a physical release of Breach & Clear—except, on an almost obsolete console at that point.
"By all accounts at the time, this was a crazy move," said Fairhurst. "The PlayStation Vita was 'dead' and Breach & Clear had sold miserably digitally on the platform. To me, I just wanted to hold a game that I made in my hands. I wanted to know my work was preserved for years to come and wouldn't just be lost when a server shut down. Surprisingly, it turned out there were people like me who wanted to hold their games physically. Breach & Clear sold out in 108 minutes and the rest is history."
From then on, Limited Run Games was born. As a division of Mighty Rabbit, Limited Run is based in North Carolina, a surprising hotbed of game development. Epic Games, one of the most well-known developers in the world, is based in Cary, North Carolina—but that's not the only big name.
"Not a lot of people know it, but Red Storm Entertainment is here (a division of Ubisoft most famous for making the Tom Clancy games)," said Fairhurst, "and Insomniac has a studio here as well. It's been a great place to be as we've grown. Our proximity to Epic is actually what allowed Shadow Complex to join our lineup so early on!"
The criteria to become a Limited Run-published game comes down to games that the company staff "personally enjoy," like Epic Games and Chair Entertainment's excellent Shadow Complex. Secondly, Fairhurst and the team at Limited Run look for games that have a community of passionate individuals—games that will cause buzz when fans find out that they can get a sweet new limited, physical copy of one of their favorite titles.
"If the community is excited about the game they love getting a physical release," said Fairhurst, "they amplify that news and it helps us reach new customers we might otherwise miss."
Some might assume that it's difficult to get a developer onboard for one of these exclusive and exciting limited releases. This is not the case, according to Fairhurst. He says that indie developers in particular are always excited to have a physical version of their game, just like Fairhurst's own personal experience with Breach & Clear. What better way to know that you've made it in the game development business than physical proof itself?
"It's kind of a validating thing," said Fairhurst. "If I told my dad I released a game and it was digital only, he's like 'Oh, that's great but you should get a real job,' but if I hand him an actual packaged product it's suddenly like 'Wow, this is a real thing you made.'"
Limited Run and One Million Orders
WE HIT ONE MILLION ORDERS TODAY! 🥳— Limited Run Games (@LimitedRunGames) March 6, 2020
Our one millionth order was from a new customer (who also added a donation to @GameHistoryOrg!). We'll be sending them some extra special goodies in their package.
Thanks to everyone who continue to support physical games & game preservation! pic.twitter.com/Q8kSqtPWpt
All of Limited Run's efforts to create awesome, physical releases of games that might have otherwise always been digital, resulted in one million orders after five short years. To Fairhurst, the emotions are still very much present.
"It's surreal that this little thing that I started five years ago has been so successful," said Fairhurst, "and has turned into a full movement towards the resurgence of physical games."
While every single game under the Limited Run label contributed immensely to achieve such a milestone, Fairhurst can think of several releases that, in his own words, pushed his company to the "next level." Games such as Oddworld and Firewatch several years ago, to last year's blockbusters with multiple Star Wars titles and Turok. Fairhurst hints that 2020 will be even more exciting, too.
The driving factor behind Limited Run's success is clear to Fairhurst.
"We were the first company to tap into this desire for digital games in physical form and we were able to really capitalize on that by building strong relationships with the best developers and publishers out there. Without good games, we would not continue to be successful, so I'd have to say that the game choices themselves and our partners who make them are the most critical and vital keys to our success."
Success didn't come easy, though. Starting a new company is never a cakewalk, though Limited Run's popularity may make it seem that way. Fairhurst describes the first few releases as a house of cards, where if one release had meager sales, the entire foundation that is Limited Run Games would fall apart due to lack of funds. After Limited Run's 10th release, according to Fairhurst, this was less of an issue.
Still, there were a few more bumps in the road. Fairhurst said that early on, they didn't anticipate just how popular some games would be, and there simply weren't enough copies for people who wanted them. Notably, he cites the game Night Trap, which many eager fans couldn't get their hands on and have sour feelings for Limited Run after that incident.
"When it came to releasing games on Switch," said Fairhurst, "we decided that we would take an open pre-order, manufactured to demand approach, which would allow us to ensure that we do not end up pissing off a bunch of people who wanted the games. We do still do limited CEs on Switch, but there's always the option to get the standard edition if you miss the CE."
Limited Run's Greatest Year Yet?
Fairhurst's vision for 2020 is exciting, to say the least. Recently, Fairhurst says that Limited Run hired Jeremy Parish to act as their media curator. Parish is known for writing in numerous top video game journalism publications and authoring books such as The Anatomy of Metroid and The Anatomy of Mega Man. In his role at Limited Run Games, however, he will write the company's physical newsletter and more. Fairhurst's plans don't stop there, though.
"Our focus remains on games," said Fairhurst, "but I'm always thinking about what other things we can do within that space. I know I'm not the only one who was a fan of strategy guides, which have been largely absent from the market since the closure of Bradygames/Prima. I'm looking at ways to get involved with those but obviously guides take a lot of work, knowledge, and skill to piece together."
There's plenty more games to be released in 2020, as well. Fairhurst hints at even larger profile games, including, in his own words, "one of the greatest games of all time." At this point, it's up to speculation, but rest assured, one million is just the beginning for Limited Run Games.
What's your favorite Limited Run Games release? What games do you want to see them release in the future? Let us know in the comments below!