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PopCap: The Complexity Of Being Casual
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PopCap: The Complexity Of Being Casual

June 20, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

I know you said previously that you don't want to be making an exclusive type of game for one platform. Yet you do really have to tailor these things. Is there any direction that you might be willing to go, in terms of theming games to their audience?

DR: My first reaction is, we'll do... it's not so much theming as it is... the Peggle mash-up that Valve was. So we don't mind doing that where it makes sense.

GC: But isn't that more of an aesthetic level? Whereas something like Peggle XBLA is saying, "Hey, this is an audience that wants to play against each other. You've got to have..."

DR: What we don't want to do is carve out exclusivity for a platform that's..."Make a game that we ONLY do for the Wii." Does that mean that what we do with Bejeweled on the Wii is going to be a port? No, it will never be just a port.

It's going to really have to take advantage of the really innovative stuff from a control perspective that the Wii has to offer. We have to do that. We won't do a game that's just a mouse port to the Wii platform. We think that's a mistake. We will do an adaptation of it.

JV: It will be fun.

DR: Yeah, it would be fun. So we would take advantage of it, but is it going to be the only place that you'll see the IP? No.

GC: But we will call it Wiijeweled. (laughter)

I hope so.

DR: It's kind of a squirrely answer, I suppose, but we will adapt a lot of our properties and spend a lot of energy will make them perfect and as good as we can for those platforms. But we don't want to limit ourselves to saying, "We'll never take a great success and apply it to other places," because again, our customers are in other places. We want to make sure we're where they are.

JV: We did try to use our IP in other platforms. Not just doing a brand-new game on the Wii, but re-envisioning Zuma or Bejeweled. But if we had an idea for an awesome Wii game that's fabulous, we'd do it, eventually.

Do you see yourselves ever making a game that's completely outside the casual space?

JV: Nope. We'll never do that. I am a hardcore gamer and we're actually a company of hardcore gamers, though lately I've been a wuss and haven't played as many games. I just got kind of depressed.

The closest thing we'll come to that is that we'll do a slightly more actioney game. Like, you'll just want to play it like a Heavy Weapon. But yeah, it will always be a casual experience that you'll approach and sit down and have fun with.

We always maintain a level of nonviolence, because for us, that's what's gratifying to make. As much as I like to play Grand Theft Auto, I don't really want to make it. I don't want to work on a game that's going to take 50 people and four years. That doesn't sound like fun.

It seems like your games may have a potentially higher profit margin. They sell well because you've been doing them for a while, and they must cost far less to develop.

JV: They do. They're a lot more expensive than people think. I mean, there's this perception that it's going to cost you 300 grand to do a casual game. We've spent lots and lots of money on casual games, and we've canceled games that we've worked on for three years.

They do add up, but what makes the profit margin so much better and the type of games so much better as a business is less about the cost of development and more about the longevity. Tetris is still selling. Bejeweled is still selling at Wal-Mart three years after it was released, and Bejeweled 2, and it's really, really sad... ah, I didn't mean to say that. (laughter)

But it's been the number one and number two family entertainment product for two years, every month. For us, you can't really do that with a hardcore game. That's really the goal with casual. You get a hit, and if you can take the time to nurture it and have the business behind it to do it, you can have a game that's an evergreen title.

Also, the hardcore games get kicked off the shelves really fast.

JV: Totally. And it makes it harder, because they are graphic-dependent. When you look at Bejeweled 2, you don't say, "Oh man, those graphics are kind of ass!" Whereas if you look at Half-Life 1 and you compare it to other games now, you're going to be like, "Oh man, that's... yeah. That's old." Casual games don't have that same feeling. If you do compare...

DR: Bejeweled 1 looks old.

JV: Bejeweled 1 to Bejeweled 2, but that's because we refreshed it. But in itself, it doesn't look that bad.

So you aim to create timeless...?

JV: "Timeless classics."

DR: We like to say "evergreen," but...

JV: If every game was a Casablanca, we'd be happy.

Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

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