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Ones To Watch 2021
Swamp MotelSwamp Motel

Swamp Motel are creators of award-winning immersive entertainment. Part-creative production house, part-brand experience agency, the business seeks to push the boundaries of live theatrical entertainment, whether through owned consumer-facing experiences, or those devised for brand clients. Bringing together immersive theatre creatives, directors, writers, producers, designers, stage management, with technologists, engineers and digital marketers, Swamp Motel seeks to innovate how live theatrical entertainment can be produced, experienced and accessed by audiences.

Bound to a physical location, live immersive theatre is mostly inaccessible in a multitude of ways:

- Geographically: site-specific large-scale sets are often non-tourable.
- Mobility and access: often limited due to audiences moving freely within temporary spaces.
- Financial: large pre-production costs and limited capacity, making commercial models often high risk, ticket prices high and no potential for scalability.

Yet, despite the challenges, audiences are seeking out more and more immersive entertainment, with the XR industry projected to grow at a CAGR rate of 62.67% in the next 5 years. (1) After the closure of the live event/entertainment industry during Covid-19, Swamp Motel had to quickly rewrite their future. Lockdown forcing a refocus on combining digital with theatrical tools to be able to produce/deliver immersive storytelling to audiences stuck at home.

Swamp Motel were first to market in the UK with the original 3-episode interactive adventure series, Isklander. Devised in April 2020, as a B2B marketing tool to demonstrate Swamp Motel’s ability to deliver rich, immersive storytelling experiences for audiences online. Key to the success of the experience was ensuring it felt live. The first episode, Plymouth Point, launched in May 2020 was delivered on Zoom, bootstrapped by Swamp Motel’s founders, written and produced entirely remotely. Off the back of overwhelming positive feedback from brand marketing/events professionals the experience was launched direct to consumers in May 2020. Isklander has since entertained over 60,000 people - over 100x more than any previous Swamp Motel experience, with a ticket price per person at 75% less than comparable immersive experiences. Experienced at-home through a standard web browser, it’s hugely accessible and scalable entertainment.

Post the success of Plymouth Point, and frustrations with Zoom limitations, all episodes of Isklander now run on a custom built platform, GCS (Game Control System) developed internally and fully-owned by Swamp Motel. The front-end is a fully customisable interface for audiences to log-into and interact with ‘show’ content - the auditorium. The backend has been designed to deliver a mixture of automated and live stage management tasks, cueing content/interactions in a responsive way, essentially acting as the stage and backstage area. GCS has transformed the way we operate, utilising cloud-based tech with custom software, allowing stage managers to run multiple shows at once at a rate of 120+ games/evening. GCS also extends to our booking system, CRM and digital marketing, fully automated from ticket purchase to post-show marketing.

In May 2021, Swamp Motel used GCS to deliver press and consumer-facing online immersive experiences for UK/US audiences for Amazon Prime Video. To help launch the new series, Panic, the 3 week event was a more accessible and efficient way to deliver a stand-out, as-live, immersive event as part of the show’s launch, than running live events for 3 weeks across the pond. Other online brand experiences devised since November 2020 and in production for Global brands Verizon Media, Deloitte and Twitter.

Growing from a team of 4 (the business owners) in Jan 2020 to a core team of 18 in June 2021, we’ve seen annual turnover grow by 25% YOY, driven by brand new B2C revenue streams, and growth in the existing B2B revenue stream. Our goal is to further develop GCS into a platform that can help innovate the way the theatrical arts sector is delivered and accessed, and launch an original immersive entertainment franchise live and online before end of year.

Swamp Motel consistently seeks to technologically innovate, utilising the latest developments in hardware/software to enhance UX and streamline internal processes. Using technology, the team have been able to overcome some of the core challenges that come with live, in-venue, providing more opportunities to help businesses embrace immersive experiences as part of their business model, sell to consumers direct, and make more scalable entertainment products.

"My team and I are pretty tough critics when it comes to digital experiences and we were so impressed with how engaging it was. Only a team as switched on as Swamp Motel can pull off a seamless shared experience like that."  - Mark Melling, Head of RYOT Studio


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