A Warwickshire company is planning to open its own immersive experiences after supplying international entertainment giants for more than 15 years.
Pictured (left to right): Mark Evans (director of Hollywood Gaming), Gaynor Matthews (Business Ready), Malcolm Barnes (director of Hollywood Gaming)
Meriden-based Hollywood Gaming has become a market leader in providing effects using its hardware and software solutions working with the likes of Hasbro, Paramount Pictures, Sony and EA on games distributed by Sega Amusements to arcades and family entertainment centres around the world.
The business is led by directors Malcolm Barnes and Mark Evans and employs a handful of people who help make experiences come to life.
Now, after being supported by the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme, the company is developing a new area of the business, Immersive Hollywood, where it will open venues of its own and provide unique multi-sensory visitor experiences.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses and is managed by the business support team at the?University of Warwick Science Park. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
The company, which was founded in 2005, is currently mapping out that expansion and will look to raise around £800,000 in investment to get that side of the business off the ground and is already scoping locations where it could open its own venue experiences.
Hollywood Gaming is working with a team of scriptwriters to help create the narratives for the new experiences, which Malcolm forecasts will cost around £30 per person to play.
The experiences currently being mapped out are a safari, alien invasion and dinosaur world. Each would use the same physical props but, by tailoring the VR and other 4D elements such as smells, motion and wind, every experience would be different despite taking place in the same place.
Malcolm said: “We believe that our experience and skills in this area give us a great platform to create our own venues and our own experiences.
“The plan would be to make them interchangeable – so you could have a horror game running for one group of visitors and then change that to be something children friendly using the same props but with a different narrative and different reality experiences.
“As well as extended reality, our games will be brought to life with props and also tapping into other senses such as touch and smell, which is what helps to set them apart from ordinary virtual reality experiences.
“This kind of experience is normally reserved for major cities like London but we want to bring it to the masses both through location and through our price points, which make them much more accessible for people.
“It won’t just be a 30-minute experience, the story will start before visitors have even arrived and will offer a great day out for family and friends.”
The company has plans to expand into strategic locations in the UK before expanding to Europe and North America.
Gaynor Matthews, a Business Ready adviser, has been working with Hollywood Gaming on how to position itself within the marketplace and better explain what it does to different groups – whether that’s Business to Business or Business to Consumer for its new venues.
“Gaynor has been really helpful,” said Malcolm. “We approached Business Ready in around August of 2020 and as well as supporting us around the way we can market ourselves, she has been a really big support from a business mentorship point of view.
“I am big believer in tapping into other people’s knowledge and specialist skills and Gaynor has been great at introducing us to other mentors for support, which has helped to move us onto this stage.
“We are grateful for the help we’ve received from Business Ready in getting us this far and can’t wait to launch our first venue.”
Gaynor said: “We are delighted to have supported the team at Hollywood Gaming as it embarks on its expansion.
“Business Ready is here to help companies which are ready to grow and take that next step. Hollywood Gaming is a great example of that.”
Notes to editors:
The CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale project is receiving up to £2.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding