PopCap’s newest title, Plants vs. Zombies (which we here at GamingAngels
absolutely adore), devours casual and hardcore gamers alike. As the Zombies make their homes on more and more lawns, we picked the brains of PopCap’s Senior PR Director, Garth Chouteau about just how they got there…
PopCap Games is one the few casual game companies to have passionate fans in hardcore and casual gaming. Is the idea that you are developing for many types of gamers daunting at times?
Definitely. It would be a lot easier to make a game like Peggle or Plants vs. Zombies that appealed to just one or the other audience…but the reality is that great game design CAN and should work for both
groups of consumers, and we are adamant about only producing games that fit this description.
Tower defense may be a new game mechanic for many casual gamers. How did developers make sure to balance Plants vs Zombies for the casual gamer and hardcore gamer?
Uh, very carefully? Lol… if you look closely at games like Zuma, Peggle, Bejeweled Twist and others in our lineup, you’ll see that most ALL of them walk a fine line between “accessible” and “challenging.” As a group of seriously avid gamers ourselves, we never want to make a game that becomes boring to us, so we’re very focused on taking “casual” content and making it appeal to ALL gamers. To do this effectively, a game has to start slowly but eventually become extremely challenging. The trick is to provide enough content and a gradual enough difficulty curve that casual gamers can ‘get’ the game and have fun with it for a long time, while more hardcore gamers can get to the “hard” stuff in a reasonable amount of time to satisfy their desire for a challenge that requires strategy, speed and so forth.
With Plants vs Zombies, PopCap went with a very viral marketing campaign. What was involved with choosing to do a more viral campaign for this title?
Well, the primary reason for trying a more viral campaign was purely pragmatic: we had a very small marketing budget for the game, lol… The other reasons for going with a viral campaign were a) it was a more fun and playful approach, and we’re all about fun, even in terms of doing our jobs; b) zombies are universally popular, so putting some content out there that featured the co-stars of the game and letting people have fun with it seemed like a good idea.
Given the success of selling Plants vs Zombies on Steam, will PopCap Games be using the service again for future releases?
We’ve had a fairly lengthy relationship with Valve and it’s wonderful STEAM service at this point. One could reasonably argue that STEAM was the tipping point in Peggle’s success – offering the game on STEAM along with the fun “Peggle Extreme” mash-up demo featuring the sights and sounds of Half-Life was what really brought Peggle to the attention of hardcore gamers, who in turn spread the word about the game and really helped make it a commercial success. Not all of our games lend themselves to the STEAM audience – but most do, and we’ll certainly look to STEAM as a great launching pad for future games that have the kind of “hardcore appeal” of PvZ, Peggle, Zuma and others.
Will we be seeing Plants vs Zombies on Xbox Live/PSN or DS?
Not sure yet… we’ve not yet determined exactly which platforms PvZ will be adapted for. While it definitely has the type of gameplay and content that would work for many platforms, the actual activity that the user experiences in the game doesn’t necessarily lend itself to as many platforms as say, Bejeweled Twist. Bejeweled Twist works wonderfully on a small mobile phone screen, while PvZ probably wouldn’t. But given the tremendous success of PvZ thus far, it’s a safe bet that we’ll bring it to as many other platforms as make sense.
Does PopCap take a break or are you already at work on your next title?
We’re like rust – we never sleep! We’ve got several new games in the works at the moment, along with more than a few adaptations of existing games for mobile phones, iPhone and iPod Touch, Xbox and Playstation,
and etc. While it would be nice to sit back and just bask in the success of Plants vs. Zombies for awhile, there are too many great ideas floating around our studios to ever really take a breather 🙂
And now for the age old question, which came first, the Plants or the Zombies?
Which came first… that’s a darned good question… one would be inclined to choose the plants, but in order to grow the plants needed fertilizer and watering and weeding, which in turn required people – who eventually died and then came back… what if the irony of ironies is that the invading zombie hordes are just former homeowners trying to return to their past domiciles and gardens?
That’s Garth’s answer, what’s yours?