Warthog set to fly in games market

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The Independent Online

Warthog is a start-up company in the computer games industry, a sector that has been through a tremendous slump, yet it has made money in every one of its five years of existence.

Now employing 200 people with forecast revenues of £9.7m this year, the company, based in Cheadle, Cheshire, is already one of Britain's leading games developers and it won an award for International Trade.

The business started when Electronic Arts, a US games company, closed its offices in the north west of England, leaving six games developers out of a job.

They teamed up with Ashley Hall and Eric Elms, two local businessmen who were looking to do something different and the company was born in 1997 – taking its name from a hunting trophy Mr Hall possessed.

The problems of the UK's games industry have been very apparent in recent years, with companies such as Eidos struggling. However, Eidos is a publisher while Warthog is in the business of actually creating the games – and it went to the much better performing US games publishers.

Warthog got off to a flying start. Its first offering, Starlancer was sold to Microsoft. "That was a fantastic break," Mr Hall said.

In its first year, Warthog made £5,000 and this year, having floated on the Alternative Investment Market in January 2001, the company is forecast to make a pre-tax profit of £1.1m. Some 85 per cent of the company's work is for foreign companies, mostly the big US games publishers.

With three new games consoles on the market, from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, there should be better times ahead.

"We're very much in the growth phase now. We need one of the games we are currently working on to be a big hit and that will truly put us on the map," Mr Hall said.

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