If you’re a serious game collector, you absolutely need to know about Limited Run Games. These are the guys who are (almost) single handedly trying to save the game industry from going completely digital, by publishing titles that wouldn’t otherwise receive a physical release. Why? Because they GET the fact that a lot of gamers still want to purchase something they can hold in their hands and put on their shelf.
LRG is one of the few companies still publishing hard copy titles on the PS Vita. They also publish for the PS4 and PC. (And, possibly other systems in the near future- read our Interview below for the exciting details).
They’ve just recently released LawBreakers (on PC/ PS4 coming August), Bard’s Gold, and Rive. Their upcoming titles include Layers of Fear, Ghost Blade HD, The Bunker, Mercenary Kings, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, Jotun (out7/14), and a 25th Anniversary Edition of the cult classic Night Trap (just to name a few).
As the name suggests, the company only publishes a one-time, “limited run” of each title, which usually makes the copy you buy worth more than you paid. They also allow 2 copies per customer (as much as possible) because they know collectors buy 1 copy to keep sealed and 1 to play.
Since becoming aware of LRG’s existence, we’ve been obsessed with accumulating everything they put out. We’ve also aspired to talk to these budding entrepreneurs about their booming business.
We had a chance to do just that when co-owner Douglas Bogart took the time at E3 to let us ask him a few questions. We discussed the company’s origin, where it’s headed in the future, the possibility of publishing titles for the Switch and XB1, and much more.
Below is a transcript of that interview.
SS: How long have you guys (Doug & Josh) been in business?
Douglas Bogart (DB): Limited Run’s inception was about May 2015, but our first title, and I guess our launch of the company was October of 2015 with the release of the title Breach and Clear on Vita.
SS: What inspired you to start LRG?
DB: So, my business partner Josh, he’s the president of Mighty Rabbit Studios, our parent company at the moment. . . we were all running out of money and doing contract work, so he didn’t want to have the company go out of business without any of his games being preserved, so the idea was to take a gamble and put the rest of the money that we have, plus a loan, into doing [publishing] Breach & Clear on Vita to see what it could do. He basically put his house on mortgage [for the loan on that]. Had it not sold out, we were gonna bulldoze what was left [of the studio] and start over on whatever. . . but thankfully it sold out in 108 minutes, with no marketing what-so-ever. And we just kept going.
SS & NW: Wow.
NW: So, you and Josh have been friends for quite a while?
DB: Josh and I met in the year 2000, in 6th grade. We bonded over Gundam Wing.
SS: Do you start with the idea of a specific game you want to publish or a company you want to work with?
DB: I would say it’s a little of both. Ska Studios is one of my favorite companies, as well as Tribute [Games] and I wanted to work with them because I have enjoyed their past games and I knew that they had future games coming out like Salt and Sanctuary and Mercenary Kings, Curses ‘N Chaos and Flinthook. So, typically the idea is Josh and I go after games that we want to see physical [copies of] that we like, and then we also go after games that our fans have requested, that maybe we didn’t notice before.
SS: Can you tell us the high-level steps you go through to bring a game from conception to getting it published as a physical release? NW: How difficult is that?
DB: The Vita stuff takes a little bit long due to manufacturing. PS4 is a little bit quicker due to the disc. I would say from inception to completion it can take a little bit [of time]. If we were going as fast as possible, [it would take] 2 to 3 months. We just have to talk to the developer and approve the contract, and once that’s done we end up talking to their engineer and our engineer, then we figure out all of the stuff to do with Sony, get the art approved, and then get the discs made. I think Firewatch was a case where it happened super-fast, and we were all kind of shocked. Because they were just onboard, ready to go.
NW: And, then Skullgirls is the [opposite] nightmare situation where things just haven’t worked out as planned, but it’s still coming later this year.
DB: Yeah, that was just more of a problem with the Japanese voiceover rights holder Arc System Works. They were really busy and weren’t able to get the [copy]rights approved.
NW: . . . the Japanese voice-acting rights, got it.
SS: We personally love Vita games and we love that you guys are into publishing Vita games and making that a priority. Could you tell us a little bit about why that is important to you?
DB: So, Josh and I, our favorite console is the [Sega] Dreamcast, and we kind of feel like the Vita is the modern Dreamcast, because there is a lot of niche games on there that are just completely out there and different. . . it just seems like there’s a lot more experimentation going on, on Vita games, and it has such a wide variety of games. A lot of games just feel at home on it [Vita].
NW: And, now that the triple-A games are no longer coming out on the Vita, most of what you get is Japanese niche that publishers are still taking a risk on low numbers of copies [being printed]. Vita owners supposedly have a very high attach rate of the number of games that they buy. That’s pretty cool too.
DB: We’ve seen that. Our Vita market is very strong.
SS: Who makes the decision on how many copies of a game gets published?
DB: It’s a mutual decision between the developer and us. A lot of times the developer sometimes isn’t comfortable with not selling a lot. It’s not that they don’t have faith in their game, they just wanna make sure that they get a return on their investment basically, and that it all works out. We don’t want to assign something [a quantity] too high and get stuck with overstock, because that can easily kill the company. Being the company that printed way too many copies of something, and then trying to sell them out of my garage.
SS: So, you try to find a happy medium?
NW: You started around 1500 copies and your latest games have gotten up to 4500?
DB: Yeah, and some of our games have gone even higher than that. Night Trap is close to 9000 [copies].
NW: But there’s been a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement around that game, for sure. . . you’ve got a lot of publicity, even on IGN and other places, so that’s really exciting.
SS: On release days, how do you split the inventory, percentage-wise, for 10am versus 6pm?
DB: The 10am batch typically gets the larger amount, just because that’s the time we get hit the most with traffic [on the website]. It’s usually about 60% to 70% of the stock, and then the other 30-40% is at the 6pm. Then there’s always 1-5% held back for replacements or lost [shipments.]
NW: That makes sense. And you allow people to buy 2 copies in the morning if they want to, then you limit it to 1 copy in the afternoon?
DB: Well we try to allow it to be 2 [at 6:00]. The goal is to have 2 copies per person with both batches. So, if it switches to 1, it means we underestimated demand.
NW: So, that means it sold out really fast that morning.
DB: Yeah and then a lot of people are upset, so we have to make sure we get everyone a copy at the 6pm.
NW: Is it pretty easy to make that switch in your system during the course of the day?
DB: Yeah, it’s just a number change.
SS: Have you guys ever considered doing pre-orders?
DB: We did, but after Skullgirls we’re never going to do that again. Honestly, we’ve pretty much paid customer support solely to answer Skullgirls questions at this point, it feels like. It’s just a huge investment of constantly telling customers where their game is and when it’s coming out. It kind of takes a toll on you after a while, when that’s constantly the only thing you see on Twitter. And we don’t [want] any delays to happen ever again. Some of our competitors do pre-orders, and some of their games don’t come out for 6 months and that hurts their reputation. And we’re already seeing that negatively affect us, so we don’t want to do that anymore. But, we will [continue to] do it for PC titles because there’s no way to gauge that and that can be made to demand.
SS: We loved the Risk of Rain bundle where you sold the PS4 and Vita versions of the game together in one sku for purchase. Was that successful? Is that something you might do again in the future?
DB: Yeah. That actually worked out well. That’s something that we’ll definitely look at [going forward]. [Determining how to split the bundles out really] depends on how much stuff we have, and how many vinyls or soundtracks we have. So, we tried to make it easier for everyone to buy it. We did it with Broken Age recently too. We did the mega bundle that came with both copies as well as the plush and artbook. It really just depends on what we have stock-wise, and the best way we think we can do that. If it’s a small print run, it’s harder to split that stock up.
NW: I love [when you do] that because it’s just one sku that you have to put in the basket.
SS: He’s going to get both every single time.
SS: Thanks to your tweets, we took notice of a game store we’d never been to before called Game Realms [in Burbank]. We actually visited them a couple of days ago and had a great conversation with one of the managers named Will. We noticed that they carry new inventory of the games you publish. Can you tell us how your relationship with the store came about?
DB: We get contacted by a lot of mom and pop stores, and, at first, we were kind of hesitant to do anything, because we have success on our own, but Josh and I are really big fans of mom and pop stores in the first place because that’s where we go for retro stuff. And we didn’t really want to have a partnership with GameStop because they would have discounted our stuff. So, when Game Realms contacted us, we were like “Hey, we can do this, but there are some stipulations.” You can never discount it, and you can only charge this much over, and we would appreciate if you would limit it to one per customer. They go the extra mile and take down [customer] information.
SS: They do. They took down our information because we bought some back titles that we didn’t have. They took down the information for each game.
NW: I can attest to the fact that they were very thorough in the way that they handled it.
SS: And they said usually $5 to $10 is the most they can charge over the rate.
DB: I think we allow up to $10 over, but most stick to $5 over. Yeah, so the idea with that is that’s worked out really well [with Game Realms] so now we also support Pink Gorilla (in Seattle, Washington), there’s a store in New York we support, and we’re opening it up to more mom and pop stores, as long as they understand.
NW: As long as they’re willing to do those things. Gotcha.
SS: What game or games are you playing right now?
DB: Right now on the plane [down] I was playing a lot of Salt and Sanctuary on my Vita, and I also just opened up my copy of River City Tokyo Rumble and I’ve been playing that a lot. Because, I’m having a lot of fun. . .it’s a lot deeper than I thought it would be. . . And then home-wise, I’m still playing Persona 5, as well as Dragon Quest Heroes II. That’s it.
SS: The next 2 questions you may or may not be able to answer. . . I think it was June 1st you tweeted that you had just signed a “dream game” that’s been on your list since day 1.
SS: Can you give us any hints or any information about that?
NW: Or is it one that you’ve just recently announced that you could talk about now?
DB: No, we still haven’t announced it. All I can say is that it’s a very large title that’s sold over a million units on Steam. And it’s one that has quite a legacy behind it. So, we’re really excited.
SS: Coming to the PS4 and Vita?
DB: Yep. Both.
SS: I read in an interview with Gaming Trend where you talked about your first Switch project? Is that still close to happening? Can you talk about that?
DB: So, we told everyone on Twitter that the Switch stuff is on hold at the moment because Nintendo is still playing catch-up, because a lot of people that were doing games such as “Binding of Isaac” didn’t anticipate having to keep reprinting it. They are selling way more than they ever thought. Nintendo is still catching up on those. They don’t really have time for us if we wanted to do a smaller run.
NW: But they are willing to do a smaller run?
DB: Yes. We’re on friendly terms with Nintendo and the book is still open, it’s just that if anything, we might get set up by Q4 or early next year. But nothing “soon.”
NW: So, is the door closed on Microsoft because they have a set number of copies that you have to have printed?
DB: Well, actually no. Microsoft is also something that could happen soon. We’re making good headway there. But if we do anything with Xbox, it might only be like one release per month. Just because we believe the collector’s market is mostly on Sony and Switch right now. It’s going to be a good test.
NW: Do you see that they Vita is dying any?
DB: Vita sales have slowed down a little. . .
NW: Yeah, we noticed that on the last game that you released. The PS4 sold out more quickly than the Vita version.
DB: We think maybe it just depends on the title. We’re still not sure yet, but we’ll know probably in a few more releases how it’s going.
SS: Last question. What are your hopes for the future of your company?
DB: My hope is that we do expand to the other platforms and that we continue to grow and grow our market as well so we can increase the size of the runs, but still remain limited. Because you obviously can’t be unlimited and still be called “Limited Run Games”. And then we also hope to expand to other areas. We are trying to do some more PC stuff now and we’d like to do a lot more collector’s editions of releases. We have a lot more collector’s editions coming out for consoles this year. And, we hope to offer that with each game. But again, it’s really up to the developer and how much work they want to do. We hope to keep going, and since we were the first ones out there, we hope to be the last ones, now that we have competitors. Our goal is to remain true to our brand and relevant.
SS & NW: Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished so far and good luck in the future.
End of Interview