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World in Motion

Lightning Fish's Simon Prytherch on the Wii market, the impact of Natal and PS3 motion control and what the UK should focus on

Lightning Fish Games was set up in June last year and announced its first game at the beginning of 2009 - NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer for the Wii, which will also be released by Ubisoft in the US as My Fitness Coach 2.

Now working on new products, and with plans to move onto Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, here Simon Prytherch, the company's CEO, talks about the state of the Wii market, the impact that Natal and Sony's motion controller can have and what the UK should be focusing on in terms of its place in the global industry.

GamesIndustry.biz How has your first title been doing in its first couple of months on sale? It's fair to say that there are more fitness titles in the market now than there were even a year ago.
Simon Prytherch

I think in that market, you need pretty heavy marketing. Look at EA Sports Active. With NewU I thought it was a good move that Black Bean put it with Ubisoft, because they're one of the better publishers in this genre. It's going, in my opinion, steadily. Its highest position was 14 or 15 in the charts, and it's still in the twenties. It's had retail shelf space.

GamesIndustry.biz Which, without Ubisoft being involved, it might not have had.
Simon Prytherch

Yes - and we've still got the Christmas and New Year period when fitness titles have a peak to go through. When Ubisoft picked it up for Europe, they didn't pick it up for the US initially, and now they've done that. It's going to be launched there as My Fitness Coach 2 - so they've obviously got confidence in it.

GamesIndustry.biz What sort of lessons have you learned?
Simon Prytherch

It's probably on the business side, more than anything - as we grow we need a lot more administration and financial stuff than we'd normally have expected. I've run developers in the past, but these days it's much more professional industry. When you're dealing with publishers they expect you to have a much closer control over your business.

That's not a bad thing - it's absolutely a good thing. We've matured as people - I've got over 20 of experience now, and Mike's got over 25 years. So it's being able to have a close eye on your financial condition that wasn't there in developers in the past - and I think why a lot of them failed in the end, because they didn't realise they were running at a loss until it was too late. Working for publishers, I've seen that happen.

What this last year has given us is the opportunity to deliver two products in a year - delivered pretty much to time, and to budget. It's not a huge budget, it's only a small team still, though we've grown to 18 people now.

It's a team that, on the surface is very experienced just for one game, but we're in the process of transitioning to two separate games - NewU, plus another product. I see it as very positive that we've run a profitable business for over a year, we're growing the team, and we've got a lot of significant interest from major publishers.

GamesIndustry.biz What skills have developing for the Wii given you as a team? Next year will be a pretty big year for motion control, after all.
Simon Prytherch

Wii is a very casual, wide market. It's a market that doesn't care about flashy graphics - it cares more about the gameplay and experience, and potentially the characterisation. You wouldn't normally describe NewU as a game - it's a serious way to get fit. Two of the QA guys who were working on it lost a stone and a half each.

But what it's allowed us to do is build up a tool chain and technology for gesture recognition, for editing very small clips of video together. We've managed to get the game production, film production and in a way a gesture recognition system that allows us to make fitness titles - and other self-improvement titles - both on Wii and potentially Natal plus the PS3 motion controller... and do other genres as well which can utilise that technology and toolset.

GamesIndustry.biz And what about the Wii market - a lot's been written about its evolution this year.
Simon Prytherch

I don't think you can ever write Nintendo off, but the Wii market - from a third party software developer and publisher perspective - is over-saturated with product. Consumers have been damaged by a lot of sub-standard software, so now they only trust big Nintendo brands.

GamesIndustry.biz And when consumers don't have so much money to spend, they're even more likely to attach to recognised brands...
Simon Prytherch

Yes - so going forward we're moving onto other platforms, and we always have been over the course of the company. But in this coming year we're definitely going to be doing PS3 and Xbox 360 titles.

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