2010年是PopCap Games公司成立的第十个年头，在此期间，PopCap Games经历了一波又一波的成功潮，比如说推出宝石迷阵（Bejeweled）、植物大战僵尸（Plants vs.Zombies）等著名游戏。日前，TechFlash网站记者走访了PopCap Games公司，并与该公司CEO戴维.罗伯特斯（Dave Roberts）讨论了手机媒体和社交网站平台崛起的形势下，休闲游戏的发展趋势等相关话题。在本次采访中，罗伯特斯还为记者介绍了PopCap Games的发展历程，以及拥有350名员工的PopCap Games与Zynga公司截然不同的市场走向，下文即为本次访谈摘要：
罗伯特斯：有意思的是，有个原先在Playfish工作，后来转到电子艺届的人曾经告诉我，如果你看看iPhone，再看看JAVA/BREW，这两个平台的游戏排行榜几乎没有啥变化，宝石迷阵在两个平台上都稳坐头阵，这有点让人沮丧。但是Angry Birds和Doodle Jump这两款游戏现在也已经迎头赶上来了。
罗伯特斯：我们还会继续创造社交游戏，祖玛闪电（Zuma Blitz）这款新游戏马上就要出炉了。另外，在Facebook平台上发行更多游戏产品也是我们关注的重点，毕竟Facebook为我们提供了发布游戏的绝佳渠道。社交网站是连接游戏开发商和玩家的重要平台，在Facebook上有很多好玩、有趣的游戏，但这些游戏并不局限于虚拟农场或者Mafia Wars，未来必将有更多新奇的游戏在此同台竞争。即使是Mafia Wars系列游戏的开山鼻祖Zynga公司，也并不满足于目前的成就，仍然在游戏开发上不断创新。我相信未来一两年内，社交网站的游戏平台还会更加生机勃勃。
罗伯特斯：来自这款游戏的原创作者乔治.范（George Fan）早先的一个游戏作品Insaniquariam 2。当时他极力想为Insaniquariam 2再创一个续集，磨蹭到最后想出了植物大战外星人这个名字，但又觉得不妥，因为外星人远比植物聪明，让外星人开着飞碟坐骑来对付手无寸铁的植物，实力对比严重失衡，根本就是一场不义之战。所以他只好将目光转向了其他敌人，那就是僵尸，因为僵尸行动自如而且可以说话，但就是有点愚钝，这样敌我实力差距就不那么悬殊了。
Q&A: PopCap’s Dave Roberts on Zynga, iPhone games and more
We popped by PopCap Games last week to tour the company’s slick new office space [See video here] and to chat with CEO Dave Roberts about how the casual gaming business is evolving as new mobileand social media platforms emerge. Celebrating its tenth year, PopCap has ridden wave after wave of success with blockbuster hits such as Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. In our interview, Roberts talked about PopCap’s development process and noted how the 350-person company is taking a different approach from overnight sensation Zynga. Here are excerpts:
We’ve talked before about how casual games are somewhat recession proof. Is that still the case?
“We certainly haven’t seen much recession yet, and I am hoping we don’t.” (Laughs)
Maybe you will just ride right through it without ever getting hit:
“I think part of it is that price points are low for our games. And that always helps: cheap entertainment. People still need to have fun. We are seeing new stuff like Facebook is reaching millions and millions of people and iPhone has been huge for us. I continue to be amazed at how much business we do on the iPhone.”
How much of your business is mobile?
“About a quarter of our business is mobile, in general.”
Is that mainly iPhone games?
“No, we sell a lot of JAVA/BREW games. Bejeweled has been around a long enough time now, and it has always been at the top of the charts of the JAVA/BREW business. Electronic Arts actually distributes Bejeweled for us on JAVA/BREW side. But, back in the old days, I think it was bundled on the Motorola Razr.”
And Bejeweled has been in the top 10 iPhone paid apps for how long?
“Forever. 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.”
Do you have any Android games?
“We will. We are certainly working on Android stuff. It is not quite as clean of an ecosystem as the iPhone is.”
What percentage of your business is tied to social media, Facebook games and the like?
“I think about 15 percent of our revenue this year will be from what we call connected versions of our games, and that would include Facebook stuff as well as anything that requires you to be connected to the Internet while you are playing. Skill games fall in that category, games of chance, things like that.”
So, between mobile and connected games you are getting 40 percent of your revenue and nearing a point where that could be the majority of your revenue?
“Oh yeah. That’s where a lot of the growth is, on the social side. And even if we don’t see pure revenue growth, just the exposure we are seeing in Facebook has helped. 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. But I think we are on our seventh reprinting of it in eight months. It just seems to be selling like we haven’t seen before, which is great, and it surprised us a little bit. But I attribute that to just the general awareness of Bejeweled and the brand, which has really been helped by our 36 million Facebook users…. That’s a lot of people.”
Are you able to monetize those users on Facebook?
“We are. August should be our first $1 million month for Bejeweled on Facebook.”
Where are things headed for PopCap next year?
“We are still cranking on the social stuff. We’ve got Zuma Blitz coming out real soon now…. That’s going to be fun. Getting more of our stuff on the Facebook environment is important because we are learning a different way of delivering games. I think the social connections are really great opportunities for us and all of the players in the social space are just learning all of the cool stuff that can happen. That might be location based stuff, it might be other things. But there are many new things that are going to happen beyond (digital) farming and Mafia Wars. And, even Zynga,sort of the grandfather of the Mafia Wars and that whole genre, you see them moving toward more innovative game play and talking about that more. So, I think the whole playing field is going to get interesting over the next year or two.”
What about overseas expansion?
“We are expecting some big things out of Asia next year. We’ve been investing there for a long time…. But 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.”
On the stigma of video games:
“Social and mobile are converging in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. We’ve had the iPhone Facebook connect thing for a while, and it has been great. Our customers love it. It is really sticky. It gets people excited about playing. It’s just a lot more engaging than playing five minutes of Bejeweled by yourself. The problem with gaming in general is that it has been perceived as a niche thing for kids for the longest time, but now it is finally at that point where it can be a general audience tool instead of a (place for the) 25 year-old or 15 year-old kids. As that happens,I think the whole world can change a little bit for us. It is going to take a while for video games not to have that stigma anymore.”
PopCap has always focused on developing great games over the years. But I am curious how you view a company like Zynga which almost overnight has grabbed this multi-billion dollar valuation?
“I think that Zynga is a fundamentally different type of company than we are. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. But they are about marketing and selling and distributing. We are about makinggames. 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 its 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. When you are in the Valley, you sort of get in the middle of all of that talk. Having lived down there for a while, you remember what that sort of frenzy is like. Everyone is chasing whatever the hottest, latest thing is. And people just fry themselves on it overnight, and if they don’t succeed they move on to the next hottest thing. So, the bright, shiny object problem is not something that we’ve been in the midst of — partly because of our geography — but also just because of the way we are. We are more about, let’s build a good business….
I think you create a different kind of value, and it is a little slower to get there. But we are pretty happy. We have never had to compromise anything about what we believe in for great products.And Zynga actually is blazing some great trails for us. With hundreds of millions of people — who now because of FarmVille — say ‘Hey, I can play games again.’Some of our better distribution partners — even people here in Seattle like Real and BigFish — have been in some sense chartered with that as big game distributors. And they haven’t managed to crack that, the way Facebook in combination with Zynga and Playfish and some of the other early guys did. They just got people to say: ‘Games are OK again. You can play games.’ So, yeah, there’s always a little bit of jealousy that a company can be worth billions of dollars in two years. But, it ain’t over til it’s over. And I think we are going to continue to build some awesome value here, and people love the games. And we are going to keep making great games.”
Could PopCap sell out or go the IPO route? ”
We might do any of those things. Nothing is coming up in particular. But we have to decide how to continue to grow the company. And, if we want to create these world-class brands, we are going to have to do it bigger and better. So, the public markets are a great way to get access to capital and give liquidity to shareholders and all of those great things. But we’ve never been focused on the exit. We always believed that if we focused on making great games, great products, the rest of the business can fall out appropriately. It is not the only way to build a business, but it is sort of the way we like to do it. So, we are not running up against a calendar here. If social games is burning really bright and a year from now falls by the wayside, then there will be another thing and we will continue to exploit it. We are sort of ten years of history with all of these big, sort of hot areas have come and gone. And we not only survive, we thrive where these companies that have gone all-in with mobile games or something else are gone. Five years ago, you remember the frenzy around mobile games? There were half dozen companies in Seattle with probably hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital raised in total, most of which is gone now. But we’ve made more money on mobile gaming than probably any other company except for EA, just by doing our thing.”
What’s coming up this month for PopCap?
“Plants vs. Zombies ships for Xbox on September 7th. That’s going to be fun for us because we expect that will be our biggest Xbox launch ever. Peggle has always sort of been our star on the Xbox.”
How did the idea for Plants vs. Zombies come together?
“It started as Insaniquariam 2, a game that George Fan, the creator of Plants vs Zombies, did originally. And he was trying to figure out a sequel to it and meandered a little bit and ended up with Plants vs. Aliens. He decided in real life the aliens would be much smarter than the plants, and so it wouldn’t be a fair fight since if the aliens could invent space travel they could certainly kick the asses of a few plants. So, he was looking for another enemy and zombies were the perfect fit because they could walk around and talk but were kind of stupid.”（source：TechFlash）