Bristol video games developer makes it big in Japan

In 2006, self-taught programmer and games designer Chris Hunt decided to pursue his dream and create his own video game.

Fast forward to 2019 and his company Lo-Fi Games’ flagship title, Kenshi, is one of the top 100 most played games in the world, regularly topping the charts of online game distribution platform Steam.

First launched as an ‘early access’ title in 2012, Kenshi – an open world role-playing video game set in a post-apocalyptic landscape – received its full release at the tail end of 2018.

Up until its 2012 launch, Chris was the sole developer working on the project, later assembling a team once the game was nearing completion. As the game gained a steady following at home and overseas, most notably in Japan, Lo-Fi were itching to grow its legion of avid gamers even further.

Lo-Fi benefited from desk research undertaken by staff in the Business West International Trade Centre, which enabled the firm to identify potential growth markets and invest their resources wisely in marketing and PR activity.

A recent turning point for Lo-Fi, which helped turn Kenshi from a cult classic to global best seller, was a trip to the spiritual home of gaming, Japan. Lo-Fi received a bursary from the Export for Growth programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, to exhibit at the annual Tokyo Game Show in 2018. Attracting over 250,000 delegates each year, many of whom are games industry professionals. The Tokyo Games Show has had a profound impact on their bottom line according Lo-Fi Business Manager Natalie Hunt.

Despite Lo-Fi’s many successes, it hasn’t all been plain sailing as Natalie explained:  “One of the main difficulties we have is communicating with our customers and having to rely on translators. You never fully know how happy your customers are or what problems there are, and you have to put a lot of trust in translators. Also, translating the product itself has been extremely difficult. Again, having to trust in the translators and not being able to quality check internally in the company is quite frustrating. We ended up with very poor translations for some countries and are still fixing them a year on after public release.”

Lo-Fi’s experience of some of the pitfalls of growing their business overseas is not uncommon, underlining the needs of both novice and intermediate exporters for ongoing support and advice if they are to go further, faster.

James Monk, Director of Commercial Services at Business West, commented: “We know from our own research that the creative and digital sector in the West of England is on an upward trajectory, moreover that we have a wealth of talent located in the region.

“Lo-Fi games are testament to the burgeoning gaming development scene in Bristol, and I am proud that Business West has played its part in unlocking their growth potential overseas.

“Their success in the Japanese and Chinese markets demonstrates that whatever the industry, our research team will identify the right opportunities and routes to market for your business.”