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Will Dean, CEO of Immersive Gamebox — Interview Series

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Will Dean, Immersive Gamebox CEO

If you’re looking for a team-building exercise that’ll help strengthen your relationships in the workplace, or perhaps even a potential date night idea that’ll give both you and your dearly beloved something to write home about, then you needn’t look any further than the ever-evolving quarters of Immersive Gamebox—a global company that specializes in augmented and virtual reality experiences.

Curious to learn more about the company, as well as their recent collaborations with Netflix, Paramount Pictures, and Colombia Pictures, we recently caught up with co-founder and CEO, Will Dean, who brought us up to speed with the team’s ongoing efforts to bring AR technology to our doorstep. Here’s everything we managed to learn from that rather insightful, albeit somewhat brief conversation…

Tell us a bit about your journey as a visionary and all-round creative extraordinaire. How did it all start for you, and what drove you to the world of AR/VR?

Will: I co-founded Tough Mudder in 2010, with the first event in Pennsylvania. From humble beginnings, we went on to build a global event that was centered around bringing people together through teamwork and camaraderie. After exiting the business, I knew I wanted to find a new challenge that shared some of these same ideals. At the time, social media was booming and new technologies like virtual reality were beginning to get more widespread. My opinion, however, was that – despite being badged as ‘social’ tools – these technologies were socially isolating. I wanted to create a tech company that actually delivered on its mission to unite – and so Immersive Gamebox was born.

Along with my co-founder David Spindler (who worked with me at Tough Mudder), we saw the opportunity to build a new gaming experience that used augmented reality to create new worlds that people could truly experience together. Designed to build connection, combat loneliness and create lasting memories amongst friends, family and coworkers. 

Let’s talk about Immersive Gamebox. What is it, and what sorts of services do you provide?

Will: Immersive Gamebox is an immersive group gaming company. Since it was founded in 2018, we’ve built a community of over a million game lovers in 30 global sites across countries including the U.S., the U.K., Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Digital and augmented reality games are created by our in-house gaming studio that works alongside creators at Netflix, Colombia Pictures and Paramount to bring well-loved shows and films, such as Ghostbusters, Paw Patrol and Squid Games, to life through augmented reality gaming. Today, over 300,000 minutes of Immersive Gamebox are played every week. Groups of 2-6 play 30-60 minute games featuring levels and challenges designed to be fun, social and collaborative.

AR/VR experience at Immersive Gamebox

Credit: Immersive Gamebox

You’ve collaborated with a few franchises over the years — Squid Game, Black Mirror, and Ghostbusters, to name but a few. Tell us, do you have any plans to expand your portfolio over the coming months?

Will: We’re always in discussion with studios about new concepts we’d like to bring to life in Immersive Gamebox. We have a couple of big game launches coming up this year that we’re particularly excited about, but can’t share details at this stage. Already in 2024 we’ve launched Tetris and Black Mirror, both of which have been massively popular.

Aside from the UK, we’ve also noticed that Gamebox is beginning to make its rounds in the US, too. Are there any countries, in particular, that you’re looking to tap into?

Will: The majority of our venues are actually in the US and it is our fastest growing market. We also have 2 locations in Germany and just opened our first venue in Australia, both markets that we are looking to grow in the coming years. In addition, we are looking at partnerships in markets like Canada or the Middle East to strengthen our global footprint.

Immersive Gamebox Trailer

If you could incorporate any franchise into your collection, what would it be? Do you have any plans to manifest such a partnership?

Will: Immersive Gamebox is about enhancing social experiences and as that we try to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible within the gamebox. A franchise is a vehicle to explore those boundaries. So there is not one dream partner, as the ideal partner will inevitably differ depending on what innovation we are exploring for our experience.

If you had to recommend just the one experience to a newcomer, what would it be, and why?

Will: Immersive Gamebox is popular with workplaces, families and groups of friends. Our specifically designed games are created for adults, young people and children alike. So it really depends on who is participating and what their interests are. The best way to get a full experience of Immersive Gamebox would be via a bundle booking – a way of playing shortened versions of some of our most popular games in a single session.

Immersive Gamebox also offers a Unity-based SDK for potential collaborators. Tell us, is there a certain criteria that needs to be met in order for games to be inducted into the portfolio?

Will: We have traditionally created our experiences in-house, but as we grow, getting external collaborators on board with fresh perspectives and ideas is a key strategic objective. The key criteria is that our partners align with our vision to bring people together through shared play. 

Any final words for our readers?

Will: At our core, we believe in the transformative power of shared play. Through augmented reality gaming, we aim to create immersive experiences beyond mere entertainment. Play has a unique ability to break down barriers, fostering genuine connections among individuals. It transcends age, background, and language, serving as a universal language that unites people. In our world, play is not just a pastime, it's a catalyst for building meaningful connections and combating the pervasive sense of loneliness that many experience today.

Thanks for the taking the time to speak with us. We’re wishing both you and the team all the best for the future!

For more information on Immersive Gamebox’s ongoing and upcoming AR/VR experiences, you can check in with the team over on their official social handle here. To book with Immersive Gamebox, you can visit the website here.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.