An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Harold Ryan (founder and CEO) of ProbablyMonsters, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of ProbablyMonsters – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
I’ve always been driven by innovation in gaming, development, and consumer entertainment. I started as the lead for hardware compatibility when 3D acceleration and networked gaming first came to Windows, and then was responsible for shipping over forty games.
In my roles at Microsoft and Bungie, Halo really defined how shooters were played on console. Halo 2 defined how communities came together playing shooters and by the time Halo 3 came around, we brought innovation into user and community interaction within shooters as a game genre. With Destiny, we launched a game that was the most talked about game for 50 of the 52 weeks following launch. It was a true social phenomenon. Each of those four games I worked on were the largest and most successful game launches during that time, and I thought how we could achieve that sustainably. We looked around both linear and interactive entertainment and realized there wasn’t anyone doing what we ambitioned to achieve.
I founded ProbablyMonsters back in 2016 after seeing talented people not being able to find a place where they could thrive. Careers in game development are typically short. There is a dearth of places where people feel respected as a game developer and for me, that was frustrating. We’re innovating in this area and that’s why we’ve described ourselves as a new category of game company, as there’s no one like us in terms of the sustainable development model and the people-first approach for making triple-A games.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
The biggest hurdle for me is making people understand that our approach to fostering a positive culture that invests in its people first is real and isn’t just a marketing line. It is the key to scale, sustain, and leave a positive example. This different approach can be sustainable if you assemble talented developers who share the same aspirations and commitments to disrupt this industry for good. It can be achieved if the traditional developer and publisher structure is upheaved and reconstructed. We’ve made the investment in bringing together experts on a hub and spoke model in game development, and I am proud of our efforts and accomplishments.
Once we have a chance to chat with prospective new hires and partners, they appreciate what we’re doing and get excited about the path we’re making for ourselves. And I’m especially proud when I see and hear how our teams are talking about their experiences here at ProbablyMonsters to others.
What does the future hold for ProbablyMonsters?
These initial years have been about building a solid foundation, so the next phase for us will be to expand our platform to build long-lasting studios. We aim to bring amazing AAA IPs to market that gamers will enjoy and that our teams are proud of and believe in for years to come, while still remaining an independent brand. We’ve officially announced three AAA studios and each one is making an original title with a signature player experience in its own genre.
We have attracted over 250 top AAA talent from 70 different leading games, entertainment, and tech companies. We’ve continued to grow at a sustained rate of about 50% each year. We see that trajectory continuing as we want to keep recruiting ambitious talent who are looking for a home where they can have not only a long thriving career making industry-leading games, but also where they can eventually retire from with the meaningful achievement of leaving a positive mark in this industry.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Bellevue?
Being a native and having worked within the local tech and gaming scene, it’s important for me to continue to help create new local opportunities for talent. As you know, there are plenty of tech companies here in Bellevue already, so helping to invest and expand the community is very fulfilling to me.
We’ve established a minimum cost of living salary for every employee, and we base that on what it would take for someone to live well within twenty miles of our office in Bellevue. This enables us to be competitive and is something that we will review each year to make sure that we are staying competitive as a company. We’re also adding new and more benefits tailored for our employees.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur requires focus and surrounding yourself with people who believe in your vision. It’s important for leaders to support the culture of the company they are working for. I often reflect on how you can make the experience of building a game both sustainable and positive. I start with a cultural definition from the ground up and hire those who believe in that same vision as well. You need to be respected and respectful, trusting, and trusted, and always be approachable and accountable.
ProbablyMonsters recently secured $200M to continue developing our three games, as well as new studios and IPs. For us, it’s not just about completing projects – it’s more so about driving long-lasting and positive innovation which is core to the DNA at ProbablyMonsters. This requires a serious commitment to dare to put talent first over projects, roadmaps, and anything going on in behind-the-door negotiations.
It’s not easy running your own business, but if you aspire to try it on your own, my perspective is that by keeping a vision and goal in mind, you can set yourself on an unstoppable path. Believe in yourself and be ready to take the risks that come at you.