Q+A: How a McKinney Gaming Studio Takes a ‘Playful’ Approach to Funding

The team at Playful Studios has a close relationship with its investors, who all share the same mission, vision, and overall passion for family-friendly entertainment. With a new $23M raise, Playful is ready to move into the new spectator era of gaming.

When McKinney-based Playful Studios started to seek out funding, there wasn’t a “special magic” to the process. The team merely invited trusted folks to the studio to learn more about the gaming company’s mission—and it worked.

Playful recently raised $23 million, which is expected to boost key projects that will take it into the era of spectator gaming.

Playful president and chief business officer Mark Stanley provided Dallas Innovates with a deeper dive into its latest funding round as well as where the company plans to go next.

What does it mean to take the “spectator era” into account when designing games?

Today, there are up to five times more people watching others play games than actual people playing the games. This entertainment has been growing steadily in the past few years, but has been massively accelerated with the advent of live streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Live, and popular games like League of Legends and Fortnite.

Popular streamers on these platforms have millions of followers, and can average tens of thousands of live viewers per streaming session. Many of these games have become popular on these streaming platforms, but there are limits to what they can offer for this new kind of viewership and entertainment.

Playful is working on a variety of projects that are designed from the ground up to maximize this experience for gamers, viewers, and creators (streamers).

What is the larger capital strategy around seeking out non-traditional funding? Is there a concentrated effort to avoid VC and angel investors, or did the strategy grow more organically as Playful realized it could tap a different audience for investment?

In the process of raising capital, it is important for us to have a close and transparent relationship with investors. By meeting one-on-one with potential investors, we are able to clearly share Playful’s long-term vision and learn more about their goals and needs, which makes the decision to partner a lot more enjoyable.

Playful’s investors are our biggest fans, and that is a direct result of the close relationship we have developed throughout the last few years with each and every one of them.

READ NEXT McKinney’s Playful Studios Adds to its Gaming War Chest with a $23M Round

What does putting together a non-traditional funding round look like?

There is no secret sauce or special magic behind it. We simply reached out to trusted folks in our network, and invited them to come to our studio to learn about our mission, our vision, and why we are raising capital. If we find a match in our mission, vision, and overall passion for family-friendly entertainment, we then we move forward with careful vetting of each potential investor to ensure they meet specific accreditation criteria.

This approach is one that requires a lot more time than traditional capital rounds via financial institutions of VCs, and also requires a fundamental need for long-term vision. This is a much more playful—pun intended—approach which we have enjoyed, and there is no other way we would do it.

Do you have any specific plans for the latest round?

The goal of Playful’s capitalization round is to continue funding general growth of the company across key projects that are currently in development. 

What do you think readers ought to know about Playful?

We are very thankful to the City of McKinney and the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) for their amazing support and partnership in order to build Playful’s new state-of-the-art studio in the heart of McKinney.

Also, a big shout-out to the Independent Bank of Texas for their incredible support and close partnership.

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