PopCap reveals its Android strategy, multi market approach, and why Windows Phone 7 got the nod

Exclusive chat with Sameer Baroova

PopCap reveals its Android strategy, multi market approach, and why Windows Phone 7 got the nod

PopCap's pioneering work in the field of casual gaming has shaped the kind of games we play on our smartphones.

Not only has the company created some bone fide mobile classics, such as Plants vs Zombies, Zuma and the Bejeweled series, but these games have in turn been digested and imitated by countless other developers.

The House of Peggle has come in for a bit of stick from Android users lately however.

Having been promised its support on numerous occasions, it seemed Android fans’ patience finally snapped upon the release of Bejeweled LIVE on the fledgling Windows Phone 7 platform.

With one ear always tuned to its customers, PopCap heard the complaints and got in contact with Pocket Gamer to explain its Android position.

Sameer Baroova, development director at PopCap Games, fielded our questions.

PopCap has made a number of promises to support Android over the past year or so. Why the delay? Sameer Baroova: We have indeed – and those promises stand. The overriding factor here is that PopCap does not forsake quality for trend.

Regardless of how much attention a new device gets, we won’t consciously put a game out knowing it’s not as good as it can be. We don’t aspire to be trendy; sometimes we’re not first to a particular platform but we do value being the most polished - and ensuring we give the same love and attention to a new platform adaptation of one of our games as we would an entirely new game.

There are a number of challenges to developing for Android. You mentioned fragmentation as a possible challenge in a previous news item?

For PopCap, this is certainly a challenge given the quality bar we set for ourselves – and which players of our games have now come to expect.

But, to your other point, the delay does not reflect scepticism about the Android market.

Rather than spend too much time focussing on who will emerge with the largest share of the smartphone market, what PopCap is concentrates on in terms of the future of mobile gaming is a larger concept of social connectedness and how we can make that a reality for our games.

We’re asking ‘How we can draw a line through all these devices to eventually allow mobile gamers to all play together regardless of what their particular (de)vice is?’

Do you think Android will become the dominant mobile platform?

Everyone is asking who we think will win in the smartphone race. We would say it’s more a marathon than a sprint and potentially, there’s room for all participants to be winners across different segments.

What PopCap concentrates on is staying true to our core business of games for everyone - and that means having our games on as many devices as possible, and in as many places as there are people to play them.

What was the reason for prioritising Windows Phone 7 over Android with the release of Bejeweled LIVE?

We have seen an explosion in games devices and platforms in the past 12-18 months.

PopCap is uniquely positioned: we are different to most other companies out there in that we are not solely a mobile games company or a social games company. PopCap is a worldwide games company with leading marketshare across a range of platforms – mobile, social, PC/Web, consoles. At the end of the day, it comes down to resourcing – we can’t do everything at once but we’ll get there in the end.

We made the immediate decision to port to WP7 because we believed Microsoft did a good job with the new OS. It offered a viable smartphone OS alternative to the iPhone with a compelling user experience around game discovery and connected gameplay experience with the inclusion of Xbox LIVE.

On top of that, development and testing is simpler on WP7 as it does not have a fragmented device base like Android.

As Android has a bigger device range, we are taking a little longer to bring the best game experience to the maximum number of Android devices when we launch.

What will be the first releases on Android, and when can we expect to see them?

I am delighted to confirm that we are working on bringing both Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies to Android in early 2011.

Rovio decided to go with GetJar for the Android launch of Angry Birds, while Gameloft has gone with its own app store solution. What do you make of Android Market?

As most people, including Google, will acknowledge, the current implementation of the Google Android Market leaves something to be desired in terms of discoverability and reliability – that is, customers being confident that what they purchase will work on their specific device.

Google is aware of this and is committed to resolving as they continue to update and we look forward to seeing how the Market evolves.

The beauty of Android as an open platform means that we also have choice as a publisher. Although we may place our products into the Android Market, that doesn’t limit our ability to simultaneously explore other storefronts as well such as announced Amazon Android app store, GetJar and so forth.

We believe that each of these stores will different strengths with different users and we will likely support more than one storefront.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to Android-owning PopCap fans?

First, we apologise for the delay. We at PopCap really do value all our game fans – they make it extra fun to build fun!

We have been somewhat overwhelmed by the Android outcry on the blogosphere. We are listening so please bear with us and we’ll do our best to make it worth the wait!

Thanks for your time.
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.