If you were to ask most people in the industry to name a UK publisher which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary, that’s still independent, has a growing development studio, achieved a top three hit on PSP last year and announced a major licensing agreement with ITV, they’d be hard-pushed to name the company.
Indeed, if you were to even name the parent company, Majesty House, many people would still struggle to put a finger on the business.
But the Midas brand of budget games has become a staple of many games and entertainment retailers over the past decade, with the brand notching up sales of over 11 million units on the PlayStation format alone.
The company’s Ghostlight label, meanwhile, has made great strides since it was established two years ago, last summer achieving a significant hit with PSP title International Athletics.
And the most recent addition to the group, the Laughing Jackal development studio, continues to grow – with further expansion planned for the production team over the coming year.
The holding company for Midas, Ghostlight and Laughing Jackal, Majesty House is privately owned and, boasting of a strong financial position, the company has just completed a move to purpose-built and wholly-owned new offices in Braintree, Essex.
With 20,000 square feet of space and state of the art facilities, the new building also gives all three divisions the opportunity to grow.
“In the last 18 months the Majesty House group has nearly doubled its headcount, bringing in new talent in all departments,” points out VP and head of sales Sam Collins.
“Majesty House will always be on the look out for exceptional people to add value to the group and this will continue into 2009 – going against the current market trend of downsizing.
“We’re acutely aware of the current and expected future difficulties within both our own sector and the economy as a whole. Both the management of, and investors in, Majesty House are fully prepared to guide the group through these difficult times.
“Our plans for 2009 and beyond are well-rounded and robust. We already have our release schedule for 2009 put in place with our SKU count up slightly on 2008. We have proven winners and exciting new ranges that will give us the point of difference in the marketplace. We also have the scope to take advantage of new opportunities that may arise so we can react with speed to maximise their potential.”
Having just celebrated its tenth anniversary, the Midas label is looking to build on its success over the past decade, during which time it has published 157 console titles; has enjoyed 17 Top 20 titles; has notched up two number one games; and sold over 11 million units on PlayStation in PAL territories.
Not a bad achievement for a brand that specialises in value products. It has also been awarded six Volume Sales Awards from ELSPA/ChartTrack including two Gold awards (200,000 UK sell-through), the only dedicated console budget publisher to reach this level.
Understandably, Midas is now refocusing its efforts on the leading formats, including DS, Wii, Xbox 360, PC and – later this year – PS3.
Key titles for Midas this year are new additions to the Clever Kids educational line-up, Digitars, plus Read And Play.
“Clever Kids has been a huge success for Midas since its inception in Q4 2007,” enthuses Collins. “Being the first Curriculum-inspired range of titles on the DS format gave us a fantastic USP. All across Europe retailers supported the range and this success has encouraged us to expand the range with new titles and new formats.”
With new additions to the range in Q1 and Q2, the Clever Kids range will boast eight titles for DS and PC and six for Wii. 2009 will see the emergence of a new range of branded games featuring amusing and loveable digital heroes and villains – the Digitars. Designed and created in-house by Lauging Jackal, the team at Midas believes that Digitars is a DS franchise in the making.
In addition, tapping into the pre-teens market, Midas will later this year release a new range of storybook and adventures titles for DS. “Taking classic tales and creating an immersive and interactive gaming experience, we believe parents and children alike will find Read And Play a great introductory range to handheld gaming,” says Collins.
After a great 2008 Ghostlight is set to further stamp its mark on the European market with an expanded release schedule and several potential chart busters.
Top of the list is Dancing on Ice for DS and Wii, which Ghostlight announced late last year and which is set for release in March. It’s the officially licensed game of the hit ITV series, of course, with the 2008 show attracting a huge 14 million viewers, making it the third most watched show of the year.
“The show format lends itself perfectly to a video game and Ghostlight will incorporate this and the all-important judges into the finished product,” explains Majesty House’s VP head of development Stephen Morgan.
“The demographic of the TV series is a perfect match for the two Nintendo formats and, with the recent announcement of a new series commissioned for airing on ITV in Q1, Dancing On Ice The Video Game could be one of the biggest sellers of the first half of the year.”
Ghostlight is targeting the hardcore in 2009 with To End All Wars later this year. This gritty, atmospheric WWI first person shooter will be Ghostlight’s first PS3 and Xbox 360 title and has already garnered praise in the specialist games mags with over 40 pages of coverage to date.
On the Wii, the label will release International Athletics and Mary King’s Riding School 2 in the first half of 2009.
Meanwhile, a new focus for the company will be the iPhone, with the release of International Athletics for the format. “We expect great things from this intuitive platform and will ensure that we use the incredible scope of the format to its best advantage,” says Morgan.
“Laughing Jackal are on a real high at the moment, having seen their first DS title, Road To Vegas, successfully released in Europe,” boasts Morgan. “Four more projects are well underway, including Mary King’s Riding School 2 on Wii, Digitars on DS, The Big Deal on DS and a conversion of a title for Xbox 360.
“There are further plans to expand the team’s production facility to offer a complete production solution for third party publishers. These services will include product conversions, localisation, QA and submissions and creation of printed and marketing materials.”