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Thursday 22 February 2018

Zara Phillips becomes first member of Royal family to appear in video game

An electronic version of the Queen’s granddaughter will feature in an online game for horse lovers
An electronic version of the Queen’s granddaughter will feature in an online game for horse lovers

Gordon Rayner

Zara Phillips is to become the first member of the Royal family to feature in a video game after signing a deal with a French software firm.

An electronic version of the Queen’s granddaughter will feature in an online game for horse lovers, in which the Olympic equestrian will dispense advice and tips on how to look after virtual reality steeds.

Miss Phillips, 32, is understood to have been paid a six-figure sum by Ubisoft to lend her name to Howrse, which has 50 million players around the world.

Later this month she will become an on-screen “mentor” to whom players can turn for advice as they raise and train virtual horses.

Her tips and advice are likely to feature in speech bubbles next to her image. A spokesman for the firm said her voice would not be part of the game.

Some of Miss Phillips’s own horses, including her Olympic mount High Kingdom, will also be included in the game for players to “own” themselves.

The former BBC Sports Personality of the Year, who won a silver medal in team eventing at London 2012, will feature in advertising campaigns for the game as part of her deal.

It is the latest in a series of commercial deals struck by Miss Phillips, who is arguably the world’s most marketable equestrian. In the past she has been sponsored by the betting firm Cantor Index, designed her own range of riding gear for Musto Outdoor Clothing, and acted as an ambassador for Samsung and Artemis.

She also has long-standing deals with Rolex, Land Rover and the investment firm Artemis, reported to be worth more than £100,000 per year each.

She has had to fend off criticism that she is trading on her royal status, though she needs a substantial income to cover the running costs of her stables, where she has up to seven horses at a time.

Frederic Cremer, head of business development at Owlient, part of Ubisoft, said the firm had signed up Miss Phillips because she “has global recognition” and “understands the benefits that gaming can bring to broaden the appeal and accessibility of equestrian activities”.

Miss Phillips said it was “great to be involved with a game that lets children and adults alike interact with horses, horse breeding and stable management on a daily basis”.

The basic version of the game is free to play, though players have to pay if they want to progress to more advanced levels.

In the game, players start by breeding, raising and training their horses. Once they reach a certain age they can enter competitions. Players can also build their own stables and riding centres.

Miss Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall are expecting their first child, which is due to be born later this month. Her pregnancy has meant she has not been able to compete for six months, though she could be back in action at the World Equestrian Games in August.

Despite her considerable income, Miss Phillips is not the world’s highest-paid equestrian, as her discipline, three-day eventing, attracts far less sponsorship than showjumping, where top riders can take home more than a million pounds per year.

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