Neil has become one of the most well-known faces in the games industry and has a passion for games that is clear for all to see. There are few events where you won’t bump into him and receive his trademark smile and warm welcome, always keen to listen and support businesses to grow. Starting in film tech, Neil was quick to see the potential of games technology and such is his passion for all things games, he has spent the last 4 years as an ambassador for Special Effect – a charity dedicated to helping people of all abilities access and play games.
It is for that reason that Game Republic has identified Neil as a key influencer making a positive impact on the region’s and wider game industry.
Neil has had a big impact on companies within the Game Republic network and on Escape which now looks after 75% of the videogames industry in the UK. He blends a perfect mix of insider knowledge of technology from a user and manufacturer perspective, but most of all has an affinity with games companies and has joined many on their journeys in development. Neil knows inside out the nature of growing companies – building a business from a simple idea for a game or a service. Indeed Neil’s career spans over 20 years, starting as an Account Manager before becoming Company Director in 1999 and founded his own business in 2002; then joining Escape Technology in 2015 as Account Director. Neil works with most of the companies in Game Republic and has been a big advocate for the network ensuring Escape Technology became Official Partner to Game Republic in 2023. As Account Director, he sees his role as being part of the success of a company. Escape develops its own tech as well as putting together the right technology from its vast network of manufacturers to support the industry to innovate. Like Neil, everyone at Escape has worked in industry so they know what it is like and are invested in getting the companies to where they want to be.
What is great about the game industry?
The love and passion in it. It is like a huge family and once you are within it, you can’t get out! I love the happy faces of studios as they grow – I don’t think I have ever worked in such a vertical where there is so much love and passion.
What words of advice do you have for people starting out in the games sector?
Never give up! If you have a great idea, seek advice and help. I met Bruce, founder of Radical Forge when he was a one-man band at University. He had so much talent. Now his studio employs more than 80 people. Never give up on the dream!
What work are you doing to support the industry?
As a business we are making a huge impact. Games studios are changing the way they work. They need to deliver projects to deadlines with a lot of technology behind them. We can talk about art, pipelines, workflows but at the same time we can support infrastructure and we can bring it all together. We are a conduit in the middle of all the demands and can understand the pain points and how to resolve them. We become part of their team which is why I think we are succeeding at Escape Technology, now supporting 75% of the game industry. We are all ex-industry – whether games or film, we bring all that passion and expertise together. Being in the region has been great as we are a go-to for studios, they know where we are even just for advice. And our door is always open, we just love helping the industry grow.
I have been through so much with so many studios and then I see their successes and it is good to sit back and know I was part of that journey.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
That’s a tough question! But working with a small studios is something I have always loved. Working with maybe just a 3-5 man crew and going through that journey with them, through the pain and challenges. Problems for these companies become my problems too and I have to resolve them so they can succeed. I love to be part of the journey – I have been through so much with so many studios and then I see their successes and it is good to sit back and know I was part of that journey. One example would be Bruce Slater, I met him when he was at University. He didn’t want to start a studio. We met up and sat down with him. Knowing all I did about the industry and with my experience and told him he needed to start a studio. It was a real battle to convince him! We met and I told him he needed to start a studio because I truly believed in him and what he could do. I had to sell him the whole concept of running a studio and how good he was. Out of all the studios I have helped along the way, this was the one. This young guy I met of course went on to found Radical Forge. He is amazing and that for me is all of those journeys in one. He has told me he won’t forget that conversation, and I won’t forget working with Bruce in those early days as I am so proud of what he has done.
What influence do you have on the sector?
We are not like typical resellers where it is a numbers game. We are huge but we are not a warehouse. Our mentality is different.We see ourselves as consultants, partners, your trusted advisor. We have to be part of the clients’ thinking pattern for growth. We are agnostic so we can make sure that we will only apply a solution if it fits. We also work on development ourselves and with manufacturers so we can improve the technology that is available to companies to support their success, innovation and growth. We have worked with Sumo, Red Kite Games, Rebellion – we work with most of the network!
What do you think of Game Republic?
Phenomenal. It is more than an organisation, it is a platform for developers to be on. It’s for the Northern region and has always been in the North. I was there when it started. I have always been a supporter of it in some shape or form since the beginning. It’s absolutely essential for developers and it is just so much more than a membership network.
The games companies here are phenomenal, the sheer amount of them. There is a whole ecosystem here right across the North and some incredible personalities and companies.
Why is Yorkshire and The North a good place to do business?
It is and always has been the epicentre of games development for years. There has been good funding around – a high level of investment in the North, which of course is essential. The games companies here are phenomenal, the sheer amount of them. There is a whole ecosystem here right across the North and some incredible personalities and companies. I think the support and collaboration amongst the industry here is special, it’s competitive but everyone wants each other to succeed.
What projects have you got coming up?
FORMAT is looking good in Manchester and the first of its kind for us. We will be having a VIP event the evening before with manufacturers so they can see what work we have been doing in the North. It is a great space for us to see our developers and customers, I can’t wait!
And we have developed Sherpa, our own cloud service which is extremely exciting. It enables us to provide workstations in the cloud for studios. Effectively allowing them to scale up, literally within hours. It is a secure, vendor agnostic environment where you can recreate any VFX, animation, games, architecture visualization or post production pipeline. We’re immensely proud of it and it is allowing our clients, in gaming and beyond to do incredible things. And facilitating brilliant work is what we are all about.