(Image courtesy of GamesBeat)
Even if you’re just a casual gamer, you’ve probably heard of PopCap Games -- at least by some of their game titles alone. The company’s blockbuster hits include Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies, and their CEO recently sat down for a chat on the state of iOS gaming and more.
TechFlash landed a Q&A interview with PopCap Games CEO Dave Roberts on the heels of the company’s move to expanded digs. The decade-old company now employs 350 people and has had some amazing success in recent years, certainly in no small thanks to the iPhone and Apple’s iOS -- mobile now makes up “about a quarter” of PopCap’s current business, including JAVA/BREW games for other cell phones, where the company’s popular Bejeweled first appeared.
On the subject of Bejeweled’s staying power in the Top 10 iPhone Paid Apps chart on the App Store, Roberts notes: “It's funny, one of the guys from Playfish, which is now part of EA, made the comment that if you look at the top iPhone games and you look at the top JAVA/BREW games there's not that much difference between them.... I think that is kind of sad on some level. But it's great to see some new innovative stuff like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump show up."
The company currently doesn’t have any games on Google’s Android, but that will soon change. Facebook also accounts for 15 percent of their revenue this year with what the CEO calls “connected versions of our games. Bejeweled has also been a hit on the Nintendo DS, where PopCap has reprinted the title seven times in eight months. “We launched Bejeweled Twist for the DS this year, and we had kind of written off the DS just because it is so hard to make money on cartridges in retail, Roberts reveals. “It just seems to be selling like we haven't seen before, which is great, and it surprised us a little bit."
Looming large on the company’s radar is even more social networking, particularly even deeper ties with Facebook and possibly taking on successful up-and-comers like Zynga, whose Farmville and Mafia Wars have exploded on the social network.
"I think that Zynga is a fundamentally different type of company than we are,” Roberts explained. “And I don't mean that in a bad way. But they are about marketing and selling and distributing. We are about making games. There are few notable great companies that got created in the last few years -- these kind of overnight sensations. There's always professional jealousy of 'Wow, how did they do that?' But we were never trying to burn bright, burn big. That's a Silicon Valley way of life. And it’s a venture capital-based way of life that creates a certain kind of company. They want their companies to fail fast or to succeed fast. That's the business model.”
While PopCap is open to the idea of further success as an IPO, for now they’re focused on the near future, including the launch this week of Plants vs. Zombies on Xbox as well as expansion beyond the United States, particularly into the Asian market where Roberts is “expecting some big things” next year.
“We’ve been investing there for a long time,” the CEO concludes. “China, Korea and Japan are markets that have always been tough for any Western game country to crack, but in particular for casual companies you just don't see much going on there. We are finally seeing some really cool partnerships and breakthroughs that we'll hopefully be seeing in the marketplace. Those are two big pillars of our growth. Ultimately, our goal here is to have our key franchises be the most popular game brands in the world, not just video game brands. But we need displace the Scrabbles and Monopolies of the world as people's favorite games and just take the distinction away between a video game and a game."
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter