Are you ready to play? Immersive Gamebox is coming to the Lower East Side to bring people together through the power of games.
Formerly known as Electric Gamebox, Immersive Gamebox first started in the United Kingdom in 2018. Founder and CEO Will Dean, who is also the creator of the Tough Mudder company, was no stranger to building a brand around teamwork when he came up with the plans for Immersive Gamebox.
“With this business, the idea was how can we use technology to bring people together. Twenty years ago, everyone thought the internet was going to make the world a flatter, less divided place. It didn’t quite play out like that,” said Dean. “I have kids, I live in fear that they’ll spend their whole day on their phones and not talking to each other, so I love the idea of bringing people together with technology.”
When creating the first space, Dean looked into what sort of technology would be the best to create games that emphasize teamwork. The problem Dean had with virtual reality is that once you put the headset on, you aren’t really with the people you came with anymore. It was also important to Dean that the games would be played more than once.
“There are so many things that are one and done, then there are things that are very hard to build a real business around. The trouble with VR is once you put the headset on, you’re not really with your friends anymore,” said Dean. “So the vision of this business was, let’s create an interactive smart room.”
Dean and his team looked at a lot of different technologies and ultimately settled on projection mapping, touch screens, patent-pending Lidar and 3D motion tracking. The first Immersive Gamebox location opened in London in 2019 and has since grown (even during the pandemic) to have multiple locations throughout the United Kingdom and the United States.
Each Immersive Gamebox location is around 2,000-3,000 square feet, with 5-10 gaming boxes, a check-in area at the front, bathrooms in the back, and an area with lockers to hold your belongings. When you step into an Immersive Gamebox space, you’ll see each gaming room set up with projectors, lights, and a row of visors. The visors act as your controller, using motion tracking technology so you can move around the room to play the games.
“We get called a digital escape room, I think we’re a bit more than that. It’s the idea that you can go into a room and be taken on an immersive adventure,” said Dean.
Immersive Gamebox has several games to choose from, including games made in partnership with companies like Rovio, who created the popular mobile game “Angry Birds.” There are different games that suit different age groups, like family-friendly games for those 5 years old and up and also games geared more towards teen and adult players.
Regardless of the game, the goal is simple: work together to get a high score.
“Games are always about working together, it’s never player vs player, you’re trying to maximize your score as a team. We never want to create a game where a teenage boy turns to his mom and says you suck at this. Similarly, you don’t want a teenage boy to turn to his 11-year-old brother or sister and say you suck at this. So always about teamwork,” said Dean.
Dean says that each month, the Immersive Gamebox team designs a new game to add to their playing options. The newest game will be based on the hit Netflix show “Squid Game,” with players working together to play the games made famous by the show.
The “Squid Game” experience will be exclusively for players aged 16+ and features teamwork-style versions of Red Light, Green Light, as well as Marbles, the cookie-etching game and the titular “Squid Game” itself.
“People are constantly seeking new and different ways to remain invested in their favorite content,” said Dean. “To reimagine Netflix’s most popular show in an entirely new format offers customers more ways to stay connected to Squid Game.”
Immersive Gamebox is opening its first New York City location (and the 13th location in the US) in the Lower East Side at 81 Essex Street. Dean says that the brand hopes to expand further into the city, with a goal of ten new locations in the next 12 months. The brand also has plans to expand into Ireland, Germany and Dubai in the coming months.
“We’re focused on building a new entertainment platform and in a big market like New York, that means 10 sites. In other parts of the US, that’s 1-2. We want to be in the top 50 metros by next year,” said Dean.
Dean says the response to the Immersive Gamebox spaces has been overwhelmingly positive, with the experience becoming very popular for parties, corporate team building and nights out with dates or friends.
“It’s all designed to be social and get people to work together. One of the things I’m most proud of is, that we didn’t even see coming when we first opened, with families with autistic children,” said Dean. “We’ve had mothers telling us that this changed [their] lives. This is the one thing [they] can do as a family and [they] all enjoy it.”
Dean hopes that Immersive Gamebox continues to be a place where people can come out, play together and have fun.
“I don’t pretend that we’re curing cancer, but I’m very proud that in a small way, we’re making the world a better place,” said Dean.
Experiences at Immersive Gamebox start at around $15 per person. For more information, visit immersivegamebox.com.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.