Playful Raises $25M for VR Games, Launches Game on Oculus

Science-fiction enthusiast Paul Bettner had been dreaming of virtual reality for decades before creating “Words With Friends” with his brother Dave in 2009.

After selling the popular mobile game to Zynga Inc. for just shy of $200 million in stock and cash the following year, he grew restless. So he began researching how the technologies he had first read about in William Gibson novels as a boy had evolved.

He discovered the founders of what would become Oculus in a virtual-reality discussion forum. At the time, Oculus was a crude headset prototype made of circuit boards and foam board and held together with black electrical tape. Impressed with the underlying software technology and happy that there was a new platform for developing games, Mr. Bettner immediately became one its largest backers when Oculus put the project on Kickstarter, where it raised $2.4 million. As the hardware evolved, Mr. Bettner his virtual-reality gaming studio Playful Corp.

The group developed roughly 40 games for Oculus VR LLC throughout 2013 and remained tight with the founders and their mission even after Facebook Inc. acquired the mature group for $2 billion last year.

The most developed of those virtual-reality games–“Lucky’s Tale”–will launch along with other content when Oculus ships its headset to the masses early next year.

Now, to continue improving that game and others, Playful has raised $25 million from unnamed private investors, The Wall Street Journal has learned.

To learn more about Playful and how it will use the funds to expand beyond its first game, read VentureWire.

Write to Lizette Chapman at lizette.chapman@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lizette_chapman