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You guys are doing some casual/hardcore hybrid stuff. How much more are you going to go in that arena? It seems like a pretty interesting one, to me.
JV: I think in the case of Peggle Extreme, where we paired up with Valve and created a mash-up of Peggle and Half-Life and Team Fortress 2, it definitely was really highly successful, so it's something we're probably going to be thinking about in the future and how we're going to leverage that and help Peggle succeed and cross over into the hardcore games space, unlike any other product we've ever done.
Zuma and Bejeweled had big game followings, but Peggle has overtaken the gaming community in a way that none of our games have ever really done that. It was dramatically sped up by Peggle Extreme, and we're trying to think of other things as well with Peggle and seeing if that works with other things. Some games... you couldn't do a mash-up of Bejeweled and Half-Life. That would only suck.
But I think it's something we're looking at, and as we do things, we're always very much a game company first, even though we make casual games. So when we look and see things like Puzzle Quest, which is very much a hybrid hardcore/casual game, we definitely look at it and say, "Okay, maybe we'll do something like that in the future."
Right. Because everyone's looking for the next Puzzle Quest.
DR: Well, in a way, Bookworm Adventures was a little bit of that, right? It's interesting to note that our last two major releases both touch on that in different ways. Peggle Extreme was a totally different...
JV: Yeah, like Bookworm Adventures was Boggle and Final Fantasy. We're constantly trying to experiment. We don't believe that a genre -- except for maybe first-person shooters -- is what makes it hardcore. It is the implementation that will make the game hardcore.
PopCap's Bookworm Adventures
DR: And if you think about it, and one of the things that most are scared about in the casual space is that there's this trend of "panderware," as I've been calling it, that everyone says is either "games for girls" or trying to appeal to the 40-year-old soccer mom. We've never done that and we never will. We don't build games for focus groups. We build games that are fun for people.
JV: So we're building games that are fun for us first. That's the first test. After that, we try to make them more accessible to everyone else.
DR: So really, I think some of the success of Peggle as a crossover hit for us is indicative of the fact that we're getting better at building deeper games that have a great, deep game experience, and also I think there's some credit in people saying, "Wait a minute. This isn't just a flash-in-the-pan thing. There's some really fun game stuff here."
Our success on Xbox Live helped that a lot, because people said, "Wow, this Zuma thing..." It suddenly got people who wouldn't have looked at Zuma because it was sold on MSN Games that they suddenly take a different look at it. That's helped a lot, but really, at the end of the day, it's about fun games, and not "fun games for this kind of a person."
Yeah, with the casual/hardcore thing -- you've got Pipe Dream in BioShock, and that's kind of interesting... I don't know if that's the absolute best implementation, but by that logic, you could have Bejeweled in Half-Life 2, because you could have some sort of minigame. But I get the impression that you wouldn't want to relegate your stuff to minigame status.
JV: It depends. It's less about relegation than it is... it can be a really great game experience within that game, and it doesn't make sense for our game and that other game. I mean, I'd love to see Bejeweled in World of Warcraft, so people who want to kill time while they're waiting can just sit around and play Bejeweled while they're looking for help, right? Ideally, there would be something for that, whether it be experience or gold, but wouldn't that be funny? I'd love something like that. It would be great. I just don't see how it could happen.
You can make a pretty good casual game in item management.
JV: Oh, if only someone could make that fun. (laughter)
Someone could. I know they could. Resident Evil 4 isn't the best example, but it winds up becoming like a Tetris game, because you can rotate the items -- they fill up different numbers of boxes.
GC: Oh, it's a spatial relations-type thing.
JV: But they don't have the auto-sort, like Half-Life?
No. It's like, "Oh, there's one square. I can get one more thing in there." Or two squares across the screen, and you can be like, "Oh, these two squares have to be right next to each other."
GC: Hey, just that should earn you some experience points.
JV: But the question is, is that fun? Or is it just frustrating?
Well, I enjoyed it. But maybe some of those games inspire OCD in the right person.