It's been a good year for PopCap Games. The Seattle-based developer and publisher has found success in its latest title--Plants vs. Zombies, which was recently ported over to the iPad and now sits in the top 10 grossing apps on the platform.
But what might be more impressive than that is the continued growth of the company's now 10-year-old title Bejeweled, an iteration of which is available as an application within Facebook. According to the company, the 11 million or so monthly active users average a staggering 43 minutes per session. All this for a game that only lasts a minute.
PopCap CEO David Roberts and co-founder John Vechey stopped by the CNET offices last week to talk about these two titles, as well as a few other topics, like digital-rights management, 3D gaming, and competing social games like Zynga's Farmville. Here's an edited transcript of our interview.
Q: When the iPhone first came out, you guys had one of the first Web apps. Was that more of just a tech demo? What's the backstory on that? John Vechey: Someone had actually made it. They didn't actually call it Bejeweled, but it was basically Bejeweled. We were like, "this kind of sucks, but it's kind of half-way there, and they used their own operating stuff." So we contacted this guy in Poland, and were like, "Hey, we'll give you some money to fix it up a little bit and respond to our feedback, and we'll buy it from you," and he said, "That would be awesome!" So that's how that happened.
Didn't you do something similar for one that could be played within World of Warcraft? Vechey: Someone did a Bejeweled-type game in WoW that was also kind of neat, but then it was kind of crappy in all these ways, so we said, "Hey this is pretty cool, want to make it Bejeweled?" and it turned into the same sort of deal. That guy now works for us.
David Roberts: John was trying to get him to come work for us before he finished college.
Vechey: He did! My arguments worked! It was like, "What do you want to do after you graduate college?" and he said "make games and work for a games company like you guys." We're like, "All right, so you can spend two years to do the thing that you can do right now, it's your choice."
Roberts: Our anti-education person John Vechey...
How long did it take to port Plants vs. Zombies to the iPad? Vechey: Two months maybe?
Roberts: It actually didn't start until the iPad got announced, so we didn't know about the iPad before it got announced. So it wasn't very long. The team was working a lot of late nights.
In these ports, who decides what features make it and which ones don't? Vechey: There's a producer who's in charge of them, and they're working with the developers and the original game developer to find that balance. And really, the producers have to be experts in the platform and know what should be kept, and what shouldn't be kept, and then know when to include the original game designers.
For example, Xbox is a platform that we go to. And we think of it more of an "adaptation" than a port, so we do end up doing a lot of changes. So Peggle on Xbox, for example, had multiplayer. Every Xbox game we're going to make is going to have multiplayer. For Peggle they spent a lot of time making the multiplayer mode and working with Sukhbir Sidhu, the original game designer, and they have to own that [game] and design it, but really get good feedback from the original game teams.
Speaking of Peggle, you guys promised you'd be bringing the game music to the iPhone version of Peggle in a future update. This was late last year. Is it still coming? Vechey: Is the future gone? No, the future is still coming.
Roberts: I thought we shipped that already. I guess we didn't.
Vechey: I have a feeling that might have been an empty promise. But I'm going to stick with "the future is not passed yet!"… Read more