Poppy Playtime is one of the most popular horror games on the market. Mob Entertainment released the first chapter of the episodic videogame series, A Tight Squeeze, in October 2021, this chapter introduced us to Playtime Co. and its mascot, Huggy Wuggy. Now, even after more than two years, that giant toy continues to torment those brave enough to visit the factory.
Then, for those who dare to tread further into this hellscape, there’s Poppy Playtime Chapter 2, known as Fly in a Web; this is where you meet Poppy Playtime’s Mommy Long Legs, a truly terrifying toy that harbors deep anger and resentment towards the Playtime Co. staff. Throughout both chapters, there’s plenty of lore to uncover, and it seems that with each episode, more and more of the greater story unravels. In fact, we’re so in love with this world that we couldn’t help but put our own Poppy Playtime Chapter 3 theories together ahead of the release of Deep Sleep.
A lot of care and work goes into crafting a world like this, so we couldn’t believe our luck when Zach and Seth Belanger, the CEO and CCO of Mob Entertainment, respectively, agreed to speak with us about the success of Poppy Playtime. The first thing dived into is the series’ success.
With each chapter release, the popularity of Poppy Playtime continues to grow. It’s an unbridled success, spawning the PC multiplayer game, Project Playtime, and some merchandise, including a Poppy Playtime plush range and Poppy Playtime toys. Well, it seems the brothers didn’t anticipate this level of popularity. Zach tells us, “We’re very happy and pleasantly surprised at the success of Poppy Playtime. From online content to games and consumer products like plush, action figures, and even Halloween costumes, our community loves these characters.”
Seth adds that they “dream big but always keep in mind that success is never guaranteed.” As for why he thinks Poppy Playtime is so popular, he believes it’s “because it’s a concept that resonated with a lot of people, us included. Toys already can be kind of creepy… but exploring a creepy toy’s abandoned factory? I think that had a lot to do with it. It’s a great setting for a story with a lot of twists and turns.” As fans ourselves, we certainly agree that the factory plays a huge part in what makes the game so good. When you combine that with creepy toys and an enthralling yet unpredictable story, you know you’re on to a winner.
Zach, meanwhile, tells us that “the game is so successful for a few reasons. First, it’s accessible. It’s easy to get in and start playing. But then it’s challenging by way of the puzzles and mini-games. Second, the story is intriguing. The audience is always looking for the backstory of how Poppy and Huggy Wuggy became who they are. And third, it looks great. With each game we are pushing ourselves to make a good-looking cinematic game. That’s the hook that makes people lean into an interactive experience.”
The backstory of each toy is certainly intriguing. A couple of us at PT love deep diving into lore and exploring a story, which is part of why we love a similar videogame franchise known as Five Nights at Freddy’s. We can see some slight parallels between PP and FNAF, showing that the longstanding animatronic videogame series serves as an influence for Mob Entertainment’s horror gem. Still, that’s not the only place the team draws inspiration from; as Zach explains, “We’ve always been attracted to movies, games, and media that are visually interesting with a deep back story. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) was a visual inspiration for us.”
Not only that, but he goes on to say that “IDEAL, the defunct toy company that is most famous for creating the teddy bear, was an inspiration for Playtime Co. since it was founded in the early 1900s and closed for good in the 1990s and created toys throughout many decades.” We can’t argue that it really is the perfect inspiration for a game like Poppy Playtime. Seth adds that “if it’s visually interesting and there is a lot of back story to discover, it will grab our attention. As fans, we like that type of media so that’s what we want to create.”
When creators are just as passionate about a topic as the fans are, you know the product is in safe hands, as they understand what the game needs and how it should play out. It’s ideals such as that make the brothers and their team hone in on all the little details. For instance, Zach tells us “We take very seriously the idea that our toys look and feel like real toys. That’s how the audience makes a connection.” You know there’s another little company out there known as Disney (you probably haven’t heard of them), who has experience with making toys look and feel real.
That’s something that Mob Entertainment recognizes, as Zach tells us that the difference in their “approach was that we like to think of Poppy Playtime as in some ways Toy Story, but darker.” We can see that, and perhaps that’s part of what adds to the terror. This also makes us all the more thankful for Poppy Playtime, as it means we don’t have to see Buzz and Woody in a more gruesome light. Then again, our beloved Winnie the Pooh is now a ravenous, murderous lunatic, so who knows?
Essentially, as Zach explains, “Everybody remembers the kid who took apart regular toys and made them something different. That was memorable and interesting. That’s what we want to do.” However, while Seth agrees and states that the “concept has always resonated with us,” he also believes that “Poppy Playtime found its voice with us when we introduced the factory into the game. Exploring a creepy, abandoned toy factory seemed like an interesting and new concept to us.”
Away from the setting, there are numerous subgenres under the horror banner. While Poppy Playtime falls under the jump scare horror category in some capacity, Seth tells us that the team “wanted to avoid cheap jump scares.” Instead, they made the creative decision “only to use them when we need to (or if it’s a well-earned moment). A lot of the focus was on making the player feel a sense of dread like someone is watching them. And to also subvert expectations, such as when you first see Huggy come after you.” We certainly love a good jump scare moment, and the ones you come across in PP are great, but we love that Mob Entertainment doesn’t rely on them.
To put it simply, as Zach says, “When we play games, watch movies, or any other media, we like all those things, jump scares, surprises, puzzles, surprising stories. So that’s what we naturally wanted to make.” Again, this shows that the team at Mob Entertainment are horror fans, meaning it’s true lovers of the genre making something for other horror fans. It takes true understanding to balance the elements in a horror videogame.
While Poppy Playtime has some jump scares and surprises, it leans into the survival horror genre too, featuring puzzles and challenges as the bulk of the gameplay. The reason for this, as Seth explains, is that the brothers “wanted the main mechanic to not involve combat.” It’s becoming a more popular tactic in horror games; look at how terrifying Outlast is because you can’t fight back, only run. Poppy Playtime gives the same feeling of helplessness. While I love games such as Resident Evil, I feel no sense of terror due to having an assortment of weapons and guns. Seth hits the nail on the head when he says combat “can make the player feel invincible.”
So, to differentiate itself from games that adopt a passive approach to combat, Mob Entertainment created the GrabPack. Seth explains that the reason for doing so is “because it feels like a toy to shoot, which was on brand for Playtime Co.” In a nutshell, the team put themselves in the player’s shoes to determine the scariest way to play the game, concluding that “if there is a monster in front of the player, their only hope should be to run.”
Now that we understand the influences of the game and how it’s Zach and Seth’s love of horror that spurns what we see in Poppy Playtime, we need to know why they chose to release Poppy Playtime in an episodic format. Zach explains that “since Poppy Playtime was our first game and we were (and still are) a self-funded startup, we thought that this would be the most feasible approach for us.” Though that’s not what we expected, it reminds us of how impressive the Poppy Playtime universe is. Coming from a self-funded startup, it makes the success of the series all the more exciting to hear.
However, Seth does confirm our initial suspicions about the release layout, “an episodic format can create a lot of suspense and anticipation for a game like Poppy Playtime. Even though you may have reached the end of a chapter, there are still a lot of unresolved issues and back story to discover in the next chapter.” We can attest to that. Myself and fellow PT pal Tilly have been racking our brains for months about what to expect from Poppy Playtime Chapter 3. In case, like us, you want to know how far ahead Mob Entertainment plans the narrative, Seth tells us “We came up with the story from the beginning with the lore being final. We continue to flesh it out and add extra details as new chapters and stories come.”
Zach adds that “all future chapters are always in the works. We are constantly thinking about the overarching lore we originally developed and how we can build on it with new types of gameplay. The overall story has been written, and we are finalizing the new characters as we speak.”
As I mentioned, we like to predict what might happen in Poppy Playtime, but so do many of you. Guess what? Seth and Zach are watching and reading the theories. However, due to the story already being finalized, fan reactions have little impact in the way of creativity. Still, Seth tells us “It’s really fun to hear where people’s heads are at and get to tell the parts of the story that everyone’s asking about.” In fact, while “some theories out there are going in a completely different direction,” others “have totally guessed what might happen.”
Away from the games, there’s something else we can’t help but discuss the possibilities of, and that’s the Poppy Playtime movie. Unfortunately for those hoping to see Poppy and Huggy on the big screen, Zach tells us “There is nothing specific we can comment about.” On the flip side, he also claims “a Poppy Playtime movie will definitely fit into our vision.”
Okay, let’s step away from a potential movie. What are the chances of you Nintendo Switch fans getting to experience the horror? Well, Zach and Seth have some great news for you, as Zach claims “we’d love to take Poppy Playtime to all platforms. It’s part of our vision.” Sounds promising, right? Well, let’s look at what else Zach has to say, “we are happy to say that we have been actively developing Chapter 1 to appear on your favorite console. We expect to submit our final build any day now. So we plan on having Chapter 1 on your favorite console by the end of the year.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Poppy Playtime is coming to Nintendo Switch.
Seth goes on to reveal “We’re really happy with how the console version is turning out. Using the Grab Pack with a console controller is a very natural fit. Plus you’ll see we’ve continued to enhance the graphics and art. It’s going to be a great experience for new players as well as people returning to the game.”
Okay, while we’d love to close out on the exciting news of an impending console release, we couldn’t let Zach and Seth go without asking them who their favorite toy is so far. Zach chose Poppy Playtime’s Huggy Wuggy, while Seth likes Poppy Playtime’s Bron. He also says “No I will not explain why.” No judging here, Seth!