Paul Bettner of Playful Studios

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Paul Bettner, the founder and CEO of Playful Studios, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Playful Studios – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

In 1937, Walt Disney premiered Snow White and forever changed the world of animation and feature films. He saw the opportunity to use cutting edge technology (motion pictures) to debut beloved characters and to tell timeless stories through the magic of hand-drawn animation. Audiences were captivated and no one had ever seen anything like it. Today, practically every person on earth knows and loves a Disney character. These evergreen franchises permeate popular culture and influence multiple entertainment categories simultaneously, from toys to video games, music to TV, and of course, theme parks.

In 2012, I set out to build a new type of entertainment company. Inspired by Disney’s original vision, I see video games and interactive entertainment as our medium to create a next generation of beloved IP. I believe the characters, stories, and hobbies that our children will remember when they grow up will come from the games they’re playing today. I believe these games are undeniably the place where tomorrow’s Snow White will come from. We’re building Playful to pursue this vision. We want to bring joy and connection to the world, one game at a time.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

One of the most challenging aspects of being a video game creator is that nearly all aspects of our medium are constantly evolving. New technologies create seismic shifts in our industry, and have almost every single year of the 25+ years I’ve been doing this. Entirely new platforms emerge on a regular basis: PC to console, console to web, web to mobile, mobile to streaming, streaming to VR/AR.

As our industry continues to evolve, so do our audiences and demographics. Today, practically everyone plays video games in some form or another. Video games are becoming increasingly accessible, inclusive, and convenient, which has created the most incredible opportunity to reach more players than ever before.

But this opportunity also presents our biggest challenge: to adapt and evolve in real time and meet the constantly evolving expectations of our players. We continually seek new ways to surprise, delight, and engage our audience in a world that’s saturated with entertainment competing for their attention. Our biggest hurdles (and also our most thrilling successes) are when we are forced to look past what’s worked before, and instead look towards what’s coming next.

What does the future hold for Playful Studios?

The next several years are going to simultaneously be the most disruptive and most prosperous that our industry has ever experienced. New, mass-market, mixed-reality technologies are right around the corner, and these new platforms will once again completely revolutionize what a video game can be.

We do our best work at this intersection of beloved IP and cutting-edge technology, so we relentlessly pursue these frontiers in interactive entertainment. It’s there that we find all new ways to bring people together through the joy of play, bring beloved characters to life, and tell stories that can last for generations. And that’s where we’re heading now.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in McKinney?

McKinney has been incredibly supportive of and welcoming to our efforts and company, as well as many of our tech-startup colleagues. This wonderful city (and specifically our location, in the heart of the downtown McKinney area) has been a major recruitment driver for us, helping us attract and retain top-notch talent from around the world.

In the last several years, we’ve experienced a significant increase in interest from employees and their families, enthusiastic to move to Texas for a myriad of reasons. And McKinney, specifically, is one of the most attractive places in the DFW area to live, work, and play. It offers something highly unique and genuine, especially compared to a typical suburban center, and that’s why we’ve chosen it as our home.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Know that the path to success is never a straight line, and one of your most important skills as an aspiring entrepreneur is your ability to adapt. Keep in mind that the reason why you are doing something is often much more important than the what or the how. The why is your guiding light – it’s what will lead you back to your path, even when you feel hopelessly lost and overwhelmed. Pick yourself back up, remind yourself why you decided to do it in the first place, and then keep going.

This is the way.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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