Star of the Week

Finding people to join an award-winning game development studio is not a problem for XR Games.

Founded in 2017 by Bobby Thandi in Leeds, XR Games have made a string of hit titles, including Zombieland VR and Angry Birds: Under Pressure VR, expanding to employ 68 people as they continue to grow.

Thandi has already turned down several approaches from would-be buyers as he says it’s not the right time for the exciting startup to sell.

XR Games – which was recently included in the inaugural Leeds City Region Tech Climbers List – is part of a booming gaming sector alongside the likes of Sheffield-based Sumo Digital and Wakefield games developer Team 17.

Thandi says: “We specialise in the hugely exciting areas of virtual reality and augmented reality, working closely with triple-A game developers and Hollywood studios to make the best games possible. Most recently, we re-imagined Sony Pictures’ Zombieland for virtual reality, creating a game that has become a critical and commercial success.”

The entrepreneur says it’s not unusual for job vacancies for junior roles to regularly attract more than 1,000 applications.

Growing Leeds City Region tech businesses are showcased

“It’s pretty wild that there are so many people who want to work with us,” he says. “We’re very fortunate. XR Games have had to hire a talent acquisition manager to deal with the demand, stepping in to surface the best candidates from the talented graduates and experienced developers we have been able to attract.

“We typically receive hundreds of applications across our variety of roles, from art — animation, concepting, and 3D art — game design and programming, through to production and other roles that are key in making games. Even for senior roles the number of applications run into the hundreds.

Multi-talented

“XR Games likes to look for multi-talented people when hiring new staff. Not only do we want you to be great in your chosen discipline, we’re looking for your other skills, be that as an artist, writer, animator, or expert in another field. In short, we want talented people.

“The competition is intense and when you get that many applications you can maintain a high quality of staff.

“When you align your passion with your work it doesn’t sound like work, it feels like play. Don’t get me wrong, we face difficult challenges every day — that’s the nature of game development — but you’re doing what you love and that’s why a lot of people want to work in the sector.”

Investment

XR Games has now grown turnover to $3m gross and has raised around £4m in investment, including £1.5m from Praetura Ventures in 2019.

Despite that, Thandi insists there’s no rush to sell, having politely put on ice five approaches from global businesses wanting to buy them.

“We were very flattered with the interest but as XR Games continues to grow, it’s still too early to discuss an acquisition deal. We’ll carry on making great games and working with major studios, and then we can have a chat in the future.

“When you passionately believe in the growth of your market and the games that you’re creating, why would you sell now? We came up with a five-year strategic plan last year and we’re now working on executing that. We believe in the long term future of the XR market and that’s what we’re working towards.”

Vibrant office

Thandi says having a vibrant office is vital to business success and praised the influence of the wider Leeds tech community.

“Leeds has great universities and great candidates and now they don’t have to leave the area to find a job, like I had to back in the day,” he says. “That’s one of the major reasons I love running XR Games here: to work with the best in the industry in a truly fantastic city.”

  • Bobby Thandi has been chosen as the latest winner of TechBlast’s Star of the Week. It’s given to the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who have most impressed TechBlast in the previous seven days. At the end of the year we’ll  publish the full list of 50 names. To nominate someone email [email protected]