PopCap: The Complexity Of Being Casual
June 20, 2008 Page 1 of 7
Seattle-headquartered PopCap was founded in 2000, and over the past few years has established itself as arguably the premier brand in casual gaming, with almost 200 employees across multiple offices.
For example, we all know Bejeweled, which has sold at least 10 million units across all major platforms. In addition, the more recent Peggle took both the casual and hardcore market by storm.
Recent console expansion has seen multiple Xbox Live Arcade releases for the firm - including Feeding Frenzy and Heavy Weapon - and PlayStation 2 compilation releases to add to existing markets such as the pre-eminent PC downloadable, cellphone, and even iPod.
But in this rare, wide-ranging and unusually jovial interview, the company's co-founder John Vechey, CEO David Roberts and PR director Garth Chouteau explain its structure and the thoughts behind its business and development moves.
Let's start out with an expanding but still relatively new area for you. What is your perception of the console downloadable market versus the PC downloadable market?
John Vechey: No comment! (laughter)
Oh, this is going to be an easy one.
JV: We're big fans of the whole console market in general. It started off with the Xbox 1, which was very experimental and had somewhat abysmal sales, but Microsoft really did an amazing job learning a lot of lessons and advancing and making the Xbox Live Arcade experience.
Business was amazing for the Xbox 360. When we actually got the demo for the 360, everyone said, "This is it. We're going to start really supporting this and really investing in this business. It's really exciting."
It's done really, really well for us. What it's actually done is open up the whole console business. We have a PlayStation 2 compilation, an Xbox retail compilation, and we're doing each of the console games we're working on now and going deep in the console business.
For us, Xbox 360 Live Arcade and the downloadable console thing really opened up that business for us that I don't know if we would've been able to approach in the way we did. So for us, the best part is that it's such a big part of our company now, having the console development teams, and having it as a focus for our company that wouldn't have happened without the space.
PopCap's Heavy Weapon
As far as the comparison to the PC download space, the PC download space is very different and has a very different consumer. We're actually getting a gamer customer. For example, Heavy Weapon was a game we had done that's an arcade-style shooter. It was pretty much our least successful game in the PC downloadable space, and not surprisingly so. We didn't think it would be that successful.
When we put it on Xbox Live Arcade, it was one of our first, day-one best selling games ever, in the history of the company. It has a different demographic, so it's kind of cool to hit the more gamer-driven demographic, the people who play console games.
Do you have a proper console division now?
Do you consider the console space somewhat ancillary, or is it more like an area where you're pushing more resources, or is it supplemental to your existing products? How do you look at it?
David Roberts: Our company has three business units, if you think about it. Technically divisions. One is mobile, which is a big part of our business. The other is the PC online, which includes Mac, PC, and retail.
The third is the video game platform business, which is all about dedicated devices. And that covers everything from Xbox to Wii to little dedicated devices that you might buy for $20 that connect to TVs. We're looking at all those things and working on a bunch of different projects.
JV: But definitely, as far as putting resources onto it, some of our best game people are thinking solely about consoles right now. It really is an equal priority. And really, it's key to our business, just as mobile is, because for us, our business isn't just a PC downloadable business with some sort of side revenue streams.
It is very much a multiplatform, multichannel, multipartner business where our goal is to get our games anywhere they're going to be great, anywhere we can. If your fridge can make a great Bejeweled experience, by god, we'd have your fridge playing Bejeweled.
That's kind of like the Linux coder philosophy for Doom. It's like, if a toaster could run Linux, then Doom would get ported to it. It would be the first thing they did.
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