Interview with Joseph Ferencz
Video Game Lead @ Hot Wheels | Indie Studio Executive @ Playcorp | Making outstanding games and creating original AAA IP

Playcorp has one mission - to make the world's most exciting, delightful, and beloved games and brands by empowering the world's top gaming creators to build their dream projects. ‚ÄčTheir goal is nothing less than to be a global leader in creating games and brands that can stand the test of time and become part of the fabric of pop culture for billions of fans around the world. They have four original games in development helmed by superstar producers and designers and headed to market over the next 18 months. Through their consulting practice, Applied Arts Analysis, they take a process-driven approach to creating franchise IP for global brands. They focus on building pop culture brands by extending toys into games into animation and back again! A short-list of the brands and clients they've worked for includes Mattel, Hot Wheels, Crayola, Subway Surfers, Star Wars Rebels, American Girl, He-Man, and Mad Max.
Hello Joseph, could you please introduce Playcorp Studios and what key projects you have managed since becoming President?
Hi. My name is Joe Ferencz and I'm the President of Playcorp studios based here in our Los Angeles office. Playcorp is a video game startup that is striving to create original video games that have multiplayer live operated business models for which there is enormous demand in the market right now. We also do consulting work for global brands that are looking to expand their presence in the videogame area. And as President of Playcorp what I do is I have a leadership role on every line of business that the company is involved in. So right now we have four original titles in development as well as a long-term consulting relationship with Mattel where we do video game development and strategy work for the Hot Wheels brand. And so on each of those projects, I serve as either an executive producer, a creative director or a lead marketer. And so that means that I need to have a pretty significant amount of knowledge of how each of the areas of the business operates and how the value chain of gaming starts from ideation and goes into the product development through marketing, through commercialization. Luckily, I've had the opportunity to work across a variety of roles like that in my career, including as a strategist at Ubisoft and Mattel when I was there full time as a producer on the Star Wars Rebels brand as a contract developer for Disney Interactive and as a content and marketing consultant on other global brands such as Subway Surfer as the most downloaded mobile game in the world. So by having that broad rounded skill set in my industry, I think I've been able to make a great impact in this leadership role at a startup like Playcorp.
Who are the main clients of Playcorp Studios, and how do you initially assess how to best help new clients?
The way we approach client relationships is to first and foremost work with our clients to understand what are their goals. We do video game consulting. So our job is to help brands identify what they're trying to accomplish in the exploding video game market and then develop strategies and execute on those strategies depending on the scope of the engagement to bring our clients to the goals that we've worked on. So the first thing we do is identify what are the goals that a client is looking for and that can be a long collaborative plot process of understanding what the larger business vision is, how our part of the business the video game portion of the business fits in with their larger vision. So I'll give you a quick example. When we were doing consulting work on Subway Surfers which is the most downloaded mobile game of all time, with over 2 billion downloads, we worked with them to understand what they were wanting to do which was to take Subway Surfers out of being just a video game brand into being more of a character and lifestyle brand that had more meaning to the billions of people who had spent time with the characters and playing the game and drawing on the experience where I did that same thing for Assassin's Creed at Ubisoft and for He Man at Mattel. Over the last few years, I was able to develop a strategy to help first and foremost understand what can this brand be outside of the video against space and then execute on a series of projects including developing a new consumer product strategy developing an animation strategy and looking at expanding the game portfolio based on this very famous brand to help fill out the story, the characters and make players into fans and customers of the brand outside of just the game. And that's been a very successful project.
What was you journey to becoming the President of the company?
And the answer to that is that I have been wanting to be an entrepreneur for a long time. In fact, I started my career in small business at a sports license T-shirt and poster company in Chicago where I was a graphic designer on NFL Major League Baseball license products. After going to business school at the University of Michigan I knew I needed to get some corporate experience under my belt to learn best practices in marketing and product development and so I did a lot of work at Ubisoft on the Assassin's Creed brand taking it out of gaming and to comic books novelization, collectable toys and helping start Ubisoft motion pictures. Then I worked at Mattel for three years on original IP development and reinvigorating the pop culture awareness and value of the He Man brand. And at that point I felt like I'd gotten a lot out of the corporate skill set and I decided to go on my own and start consulting to get a wider variety of projects and get more hands on than sometimes you can get in kind of a prescribed role within a large entertainment or videogame company. And during that time I worked on a variety of other very significant video game and kids pop culture brands and one of the clients who I was working with during that time actually was Playcorp. And Playcorp. and I were working very well together and they realized that as an indie development studio they needed someone with the corporate best practices and with the brand building skill set that I had learned at these other great companies and they made me an offer to become a retroactive co-founder of the company and become president and because I want to create original work I felt like this was an amazing opportunity to work with great people and so I took it. And so here I am now as the president of Playcorp.
You have four original games in development helmed by superstar producers and designers and headed to market over the next 18 months - any chance you can tell us a little about these, and also how does your company go about creating original ideas?
The question was about our portfolio products. We have four original games headed to the market over the next 18 months and the question was 'How do we pick our projects and how do we onboard some of the superstar talent that we work with?'. And the answer to that is actually pretty straightforward in that we have an incredible network of collaborators from our backgrounds working with some of the best brands in pop culture and game, and you meet amazing people who go off and want to do things on their own eventually. And when you like working with people you want to keep working with them. And so my background as someone who is a strategist who knows how to build business cases for creative projects, a few of my friends and I got together started bouncing around some ideas and we started to think about OK how do we make these ideas commercialisable. And those are the projects that we've invested in at Playcorp is working with people who have a proven track record of developing incredible high revenue producing video game products and then working with them to make sure that those products are both following all the current trends and best practices in product development for video games as well as laying the groundwork for those games to become franchises that can generate revenue not just in gaming but in consumer products, film and TV, toys etc. And the way that we have picked those products is we believe that great creative products come from great creative people who are doing things that they are passionate about. So when we have a friend of the family or someone in our network who has a great idea that they're willing to invest themselves into and put their own their own skin in the game, their own self on the line to work on the project we know that that's something that has a very high chance of being great. And then we work with them to develop out a full commercialisation plan for the prize. And we get to that point we're able to greenlight the project and find funding to make it happen.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs hoping to branch out into the world of the gaming industry?
The first advice I would have is if you think you have a passion for working in the gaming business whether on the business side or on the creative side, whether making games or making game support services, middleware, game revenue creation tools. My advice is to do it. The market is exploding. It's getting bigger every year and it shows no signs of slowing down. It's a remarkable business to be in, full of creative passionate people, who love hanging out together. That's my high-level advice. You want to get a little bit more granular. I think like any entrepreneurial activity you need a very high threshold for a little bit of suffering. It will be challenging there will be things that come up that will be very difficult to get through and you need to have a great spirit of perseverance to find a way to succeed. And my last piece of advice would be to have a very clear idea in your head of what it is that you want to create in the gaming space, whether that's a game or a piece of software to help games or a marketplace for games, whatever it is. Have a very clear picture of what it is you're trying to create and why you think you'll be able to find a market for it because one of the things that for me is someone with an MBA is so excited about gaming is that gaming is about as close to maybe a perfect microeconomic market as you'll find in kind of a first world consumer products business. There's a lot of buyers, a lot of sellers. There's perfect information you can go see what every game is the day it comes out. You can watch and be played in full on YouTube and so you really need to have a very strong thesis on how you can create a business for yourself in this industry. And if you have that and you have the passion and the perseverance it is a remarkable place to work that will bring you many great adventures.