Bristol videogame studio sees sales soar in Japan

Just two years after their official release, Bristol-based studio Lo-Fi Games has recorded sales surpassing £1.5m in Japan.

Chris Hunt, founder of Lo-Fi Games, spent over a decade singlehandedly crafting the complex, post-apocalyptic landscape of their flagship game Kenshi while working night shifts as a security guard. It wasn’t until the game’s ‘early access’ release on Steam in 2012 that Chris was able to expand the team, bringing sister Natalie onboard as Director.

As an active community of fans steadily emerged, there was marked interest coming from gamers in Japan, the third largest gaming market in the world, worth £14.4bn.

Having identified Japan as a key market, ahead of Kenshi’s official release in late 2018, the Department for International Trade (DIT) assisted Lo-Fi Games with a bursary to exhibit at the Tokyo Game Show. This has subsequently led to over 89,000 downloads and sales surpassing £1.5m in Japan.

Director Natalie Hunt said: “Kenshi is a unique offering in Japan where linear and console games tend to be more popular. It has been enthusiastically received by players there who are increasingly interested in ‘open world’ games like ours.

“Success in Japan had a ripple effect across Asia-Pacific, namely South Korea and China. We had previously underestimated how huge the Chinese market would be but since we released a localised version of Kenshi a year ago, it has become our second top-selling country, with sales exceeding £1m.

“We have always strived to create a game that we are passionate about, free from the pressures of investors. Our success overseas has enabled us to maintain our independence and it’s been brilliant to have had support on hand from the Department for International Trade along the way.”

With the support of their International Trade Adviser, Lo-Fi has also recorded strong sales in the US, Australia, Germany, and Russia. As a result of its exporting success, the team recently expanded from five to thirteen, and is now working on the globally anticipated Kenshi 2.

Last month, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the start of free trade negotiations with Japan, highlighting the technology and digital trade sectors as particularly relevant to ongoing discussions.

Exports Minister Graham Stuart said: “Lo-Fi Games’ incredible success demonstrates the continued importance of our trading relationship with Japan. The UK’s gaming sector is thriving, with 95% of development studios exporting their games.

“Our ongoing negotiations with Japan aim to strike a comprehensive free trade deal which supports UK businesses like Lo-Fi Games and strengthens our position as a global technology superpower.”

In 2018, UK trade with Japan was worth over £29.5bn and 9,500 UK based businesses exported goods to the country, helping to employ 2.4 million people across the UK. A bespoke free trade agreement with Japan will help generate significant opportunities throughout the economy, creating jobs, boosting wages and diversifying choice for consumers.