A FLEDGLING software company which specialises in 'retro' games is set for its first major release thanks to backing from the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund and advice from law firm Ward Hadaway.
Robo Pixel Games is based in Middlesbrough and has been started up by four former students of Teesside University's Computer Games Design degree – Elliot Oldham, Jonathan Clarke, James Batten and Andrew Burnet.
The company specialises in creating retro-style ‘pixel art’ games and graphics, emulating the games produced by developers such as Nintendo and Sega over 20 years ago.
Robo Pixel Games has already completed contract work for other games companies and released a mobile game for the Android platform last year.
Now with backing from the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund, managed by Rivers Capital, the company is set to launch its first stand-alone game, 'Gunnihilation', a 2D retro platform and shooter game, on major PC gaming platforms such as Steam later this summer.
Robo Pixel Games co-founder, Elliot Oldham, said: "There is a lot of interest around so-called 'retro' games which combine features of modern games such as customisable skill settings with the look and feel of games which people have grown up with.
"This is what we have tried to capture with 'Gunnihilation' and we are really excited about the potential of the game as we look to launch it later this summer.
"The investment from the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund, together with the support we've received via Teesside University's business support programme, has been crucial in getting us to this stage."
Robo Pixel Games is one of a number of start-up and early stage companies being given help and support by Teesside University.
The university's business support programme provides assistance including supported office space at the Digital City development and professional advice and mentoring.
Alex Shiel, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property at law firm Ward Hadaway, is one of the mentors on the programme and Robo Pixel Games is one of a number of start-up businesses which he has advised.
Alex provided the company with general business start-up and mentoring advice, dealing with various legal questions on copyright and trade marks for them relating to games they are working on.
Mostly recently, he provided legal advice to Robo Pixel Games on the investment from Rivers Capital.
Alex said: "Robo Pixel Games is a great example of the creativity and ambition shown by the start-up businesses being helped by Teesside University's business mentoring programme.
"Elliot and the rest of the team at Robo Pixel are carving out a niche in what is a huge, fast-growing and fast-changing industry and it has been enjoyable working with them on the start of their company journey."
Robo Pixel Games became involved in the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund after pitching to Rivers Capital Partners at a GameBridge meeting in Middlesbrough, a monthly networking event where local game developers and associated professionals can share ideas and further their industry knowledge.
Each company that attends is encouraged to do a small pitch about their plans for the year, and Rivers Capital Partners saw a lot of potential in the visions that Elliott Oldham and co-founder Jonathan Clarke have for their fledgling company.
As part of the investment process by the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund, computer games expert Tom Didymus has joined Robo Pixel Games as non-executive chairman.
Dr Michael Dickens, fund manager at Rivers Capital Partners, said: "We were impressed with the presentation which Robo Pixel Games gave us and with their ambitions to grow their business.
"It was clear they had really benefited from the help and support given to them by Teesside University's business mentoring programme and from the advice of professionals like Alex Shiel.
"As well as having good ideas, a clear vision for the company and technical knowledge, Robo Pixel Games was also set up well to pitch for and manage an investment.
"Having a fledgling business that is investment-ready that makes a major difference in terms of its attractiveness for potential investors and the company and Teesside University can take a lot of credit for that.
"We're now looking forward to seeing the finished product and how it fares in such a competitive marketplace."
The Finance for Business North East Angel Fund has so far invested £ 9 million into 64 businesses in the region.
Ward Hadaway's Corporate Finance team has previously advised Rivers Capital Partners on over 35 of these investments.