The founder and CEO of a game development studio based in Leeds has been crowned the Top 50 City Region Leader for Leeds at the Northern Leadership Awards.
Bobby Thandi launched XR Games in Kirkstall in 2017 when he was the VP of digital art at Dubit, a game studio that specializes in games for the metaverse, kids and Esports.
Mr Thandi had been approached by video game behemoth, EA, the creators of titan games such as FIFA, Sims, Battlefield and Skate 4 to head up a studio.
Mr Thandi, said: “I’d been through the six-month recruitment process and been presented with an amazing offer. I took this to Ian Douthwaite and Matthew Warneford (co-founders of Dubit) as I had a good relationship with them both and enjoyed working with them, so I wanted to be honest. What they said next I don’t think I was ready for.
As he tells it, Mr Thandi was given a dream opportunity with both Mr Douthwaite and Mr Warneford telling him that rather than go and work for someone else, they wanted to help him achieve a dream – to set up his own studio.
With that XR Games came to be. With an initial investment of £100k seed capital by Dubit board director Nigel Douthwaite, and the help of Dubit which provided office space, staff support and key personnel, the studio went live.
The CEO said: “I’ll be forever grateful to Ian, Matthew, and Nigel for not only believing in me but providing the opportunity.”
The game developer could have chosen to locate the business anywhere in the UK but being born in Bradford and based in Leeds, it was important to him to base the organisation in the city.
He said: I’m a firm believer in ensuring staff have the best working environment. With us being in the creative entertainment space, I wanted to ensure our studio has a uber-creative feel to it. Once I walked into The Drying House, I knew this would be our ideal home. Further, the place came with ample free car parking for staff.
“I’m based in Leeds, so it is only right that we set up here. We’re truly fortunate in being surrounded by amazing universities providing a great output of high calibre graduates with degrees based on games industry specialists.
“We’re also extremely fortunate in having a vibrant games industry scene with games studios such as Rockstar, Sumo, Team17, Dubit, and others. Where we all typically meet up at events run by Game Republic or GaMaYo.
Mr Thandi credits the success of the business to the talented teams that he has cultivated for the organisation over the past five years. “Nothing can ever replace talent and hard work to achieve success,” he said.
“I feel very honoured and privileged to work with amazingly talented colleagues who push the envelope every day. It’s such a joy watching games grow from ideas on a whiteboard to launch, especially when your games attract critical acclaim and commercial success.
“After which awards will follow. Awards boil down to a reflection of all the hard work by the whole company, our clients, and our partners such as Meta, PlayStation, ByteDance, and others.
The most successful game the company launched was Angry Birds Under Pressure, a PlayStation VR exclusive which was their first award-winning game back in 2019. Followed by this was Zombieland VR, a game based on the film by Sony Pictures, which “took XR Games to the next level,” the CEO said.
He also mentioned: “A personal highlight of working on this game was getting to hang out with the star of the movie – Woody Harrelson in LA. This success helped us grow from being a studio with 20 staff working on one project, to now being over 70 staff and working on an array of games.”
“XR Games is scaling and growing fast and we’re heading to 100 staff by the end of the year. We have incredibly exciting projects in the pipeline and there’s a real buzz around XR Games; especially as we’re gearing up for a move from Kirkstall to Leeds city centre.”
The company is growing fast and is expected to boast a staff of 100 talented people by the of the year. Unfortunately, the CEO couldn’t divulge any of the games that the company is working on currently, but he did mention that they are for “world-famous IPs from the largest movie studios in Hollywood and for AAA games studios.”
Speaking on this, he said: “XR Games is scaling and growing fast and we’re heading to 100 staff by the end of the year. We have incredibly exciting projects in the pipeline and there’s a real buzz around XR Games; especially as we’re gearing up for a move from Kirkstall to Leeds city centre. Where the new studio space is three times larger than the current place.
“From a personal perspective, it feels utterly ridiculous to me that I’ve turned a passion for playing games as a kid into a multi-million-pound business, where I get to work with my mates every day making games while travelling the globe giving presentations at conferences and meeting clients and partners. I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful. Hence why I appreciate every day I’m able to live out my dream.
“Being crowned ‘Top 50 City Region Leader for Leeds at the Northern Leadership Awards isn’t about me – it’s a reflection of all the hard work by the entire team at XR Games.”