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[Industry Interviews] Josh Fairhurst from Limited Run Games

By Brett Hrin Mar 19, 2018

Ever since Limited Run Games first teased the Nintendo Switch as their next console of choice, fans everywhere have been clamoring for more details. Then, the first wave of games were announced and we are less than two weeks away from LRG’s first release on March 30th, Thimbleweed Park. So what’s a gamer to do while eagerly waiting? Why getting to know more about the owner behind LRG and Mighty Rabbit Studios, Josh Fairhurst. Here we go!

Josh, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Before we deep dive into Limited Run Games, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m the owner and co-founder of Limited Run Games, a publisher of physical games for the Switch and Mighty Rabbit Studios, a developer of games for the Switch. I’ve been playing and collecting game since I was a kid and I always wanted to make games when I grew up. When I was a Junior in college at North Carolina State University, I got my start in the game industry as a tester on Gears of War 2. I worked 13 to 14 hour days, seven days a week, while also doing a full courseload in college – it was grueling but gave me a really good intro into the world of AAA game development. During my final semester of college, in the fall of 2010, I had the opportunity to start Mighty Rabbit Studios when a local incubator decided to  make small investments in new game development studios. We used that tiny investment ($20,000) to build Saturday Morning RPG, which took two years to develop. Needless to say the $20,000 didn’t really cover that too well so we all hoped it would be a financial success – it wasn’t. Somehow through a combination of luck and contract work, we managed to survive and get the point where I could start Limited Run Games. LRG has been massively successful, which is weird for me after barely scraping by from 2010 to 2015. I’m so thankful to be where I am today.

Growing up, what was the first console and game you remember playing?

Super Mario Bros. on the NES. I remember being about four years old at Toys R Us with my brother and sister. Somehow they convinced my mom that my dad would *love* an NES for his birthday, but in reality it was for us. The first time I played, I died on the first Goomba… repeatedly. Even though I was miserable at the game, I still became enamored with video games.

Do you have any fond video game memories from your childhood?

So many. I remember being five and playing the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the NES, dying a hundred times, and finally exclaiming “SHIT!” at the top of my lungs. My mom heard and made me wash my mouth out with a soap bar. Looking back, that game really was brutally unfair. Somehow my sister was really good at it – she never played many games but she was a pro at TMNT.

I also remember one Christmas where my brother asked Santa to bring a “Sega Game Boy” (not knowing the Game Gear existed). My mom got him a Game Gear and both my brother and I had our minds blown at the moment. I literally started thinking Santa invented the Game Gear just for my brother so I started asking for completely made up game systems every year, haha. Needless to say, it never panned out the same way again!

Before Limited Run Games, you started Mighty Rabbit Studios, which brought us Saturday Morning RPG, Breach & Clear, Breach & Clear: Deadline, and Fat Chicken. How did MRS come to be?

There was this incubator program in Durham, NC that was recklessly funding game studios on ideas alone. I pitched Saturday Morning RPG and they liked it – the rest is history! There’s a bit more to it, though, as the head of the incubator had actually seen and liked my Senior game project at North Carolina State University – a game called Terraform, which was a Metroid Prime esque chemistry-based first-person shooter puzzle game (that’s a mouthful). That game actually ended up getting pretty far in some student-focused awards shows! I’m still really proud of how that turned out.

From MRS came Limited Run Games. Doug gave us a quick history of how you took out a loan to save the company and preserve your games. Would you be able to elaborate and what were your thoughts during this time?

Basically, “the company is going out of business so it’s either do something crazy or shut down completely.” I chose to do something crazy and leveraged my house against that. If Breach & Clear had failed, I would have lost my house and probably my marriage. I’m so thankful it worked out and that my company managed to survive to continue making games and publishing physical games. It’s been a very surreal journey.

Your company has worked with many talented indie developers to bring their games to the physical format on the PS4 and PS Vita. Can you walk us through the process of deciding the game/developer you want to work with all the way to release day?

A lot of it just comes down to what Douglas and I like. We sign the games we love. Sometimes people get mad about that because we do end up signing some real obscure stuff every now and then. I don’t know what to do about that – if I’m not putting out games I love, I’m not doing this right!

It’s time to “switch” gears and focus on the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s newest console?

I love it. It’s the only way I can play 30+ hour long games anymore. I have a three year-old daughter and by the time she goes to sleep, I’m so exhausted I don’t want to sit on the couch to game. I love having console power in a portable so I can play it in bed. It’s been a really great thing to have!

It’s already known that LRG will be producing games for the Switch with Flinthook, Saturday Morning RPG, and Mercenary Kings already announced. Was it a difficult process to get approval from Nintendo?

Yes and no. We met with Nintendo at the Game Developer’s Conference last year and they were excited to work with us. We were energized and thought we’d see a quick turnaround on getting on to the platform. That didn’t pan out. The success of the Switch kind of overwhelmed Nintendo’s factories and we couldn’t get on board. Finally, nearly eight months later, we met with them at PAX West and through that meeting got the clearance we needed to start up on the platform. So it wasn’t really difficult – it just took time and perseverence.

By the amount of positive feedback on social media, it’s clear that people are excited for your upcoming Switch titles. However, for those collecting for the PS Vita and PS4, are there any plans to slow (or maybe even stop) releases and fully transition to the Switch?

No plans to stop, but we are definitely trying to pump the breaks on the quantity of PS4/Vita releases. Frankly, we’re overwhelmed too. We signed too many games in 2016 and the first half of 2017. Many of those still need to come out on top of some of the newer (and bigger) stuff we signed in late 2017 and 2018. Once we clear out the backlog we’ll see a significant decrease on PlayStation releases. Still enough to keep those platforms well-served, it’ll just be a more healthy amount of releases for us and our fans.

What are your top three digital Switch games you would love to publish?

Night in the Woods, Golf Story, and The Mummy Demastered would be my dream team.

We reached out to our readers to see if there were any questions they wanted to ask. We hope you’ll indulge us with a quick speed round of questions! Ready? Here we go!

Which previous releases would you most want to release again on the Switch?

Oxenfree and Shantae would be awesome. Firewatch, Oddworld, and Shadow Complex would be amazing if they were coming to Switch (but I don’t think they are).

What changed in the ordering system besides the ESRB to have games not ship out the same week or even 1-2 weeks after the sale went live?

Sony has been taking much longer to manufacture games than in the past. It used to be a matter of weeks – now we’re looking at months sometimes. It’s difficult to predict and we can’t afford to push things back to account for manufacturing delays as that would just compound our backlog problem.

Will we see Va-11 Hall-a and Salt and Sanctuary released?

On PlayStation, eventually. The thing holding these up is that Vita games need full rebuilds to include patches and these can take 12 – 15 months to be built and approved. It isn’t easy or trivial – it’s why Skullgirls Vita took so long to ship from us and why we sometimes can’t include patches on our Vita releases.

Is there an ETA on when the Sega Saturn replacement cases will be available?

Likely about two months from now – we’re making sure these are perfect rather than cheap knockoffs. There are some cases hitting the market now from China and I don’t know how to feel about them. I know ours will ultimately be a better quality – I’m working to ensure that that is the case!

What are your thoughts on the other publishers also producing limited batches of physical games?

I think it’s fine. I buy from a lot of them and we even work with one – Special Reserve Games. What bothers me is when some of these guys come out of the gate with press releases that paint them as doing this super unique thing but even we freely admit that vBlank and Gaijinworks did this thing first.

Are there plans to slow down the amount of releases?

Yep, I touched on this in one of the above answers. We want to slow down. Since mid-2017 we’ve only been signing games that we consider suitably big. Games that will generate actual excitement rather than shoulder shrugs. We’re mixing those bigger games in with older stuff we signed to try and get a good spread but eventually when the older stuff is clear all we’ll be left with is the big stuff.

Are there plans to port more FMV games similar to your Night Trap release? These include Corpse Killer and The Horde to just name two. I was also advised to call you Dog Meat, haha. Seems like someone really wants a Sewer Shark remake.

I’d like to! The original footage for Sewer Shark is seemingly lost, though, and the highest quality footage out there is the 3DO footage! It’s kind of a shame. The footage for many of DIgital Pictures’ other work still exists, though, so our friends at Screaming Villains (the Night Trap developer) are looking into those!

Finally, all of us at The Switch Effect and our readers would love a little tease at an unannounced future Switch title. Can you grant us this wish?

I feel like it’s a well-worn stereotype for us to hint at games. I don’t know if I can oblige. 😉

Remember to follow Limited Run Games and get ready for their 1st Switch release on March 30th, Thimbleweed Park.

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