How does PopCap’s European operation fit into the larger company?
We’ve been in Dublin now for five years. We started out with about nine people and we’re now up to 60 employees here. We’re looking to double our office in size in the next three or so years, and a lot of the headcount rise will be in our studio. We’re looking toward social and connecting our users across multiple platforms. The future of gaming will be in the connectedness of the user experience so it’s important to us.
At the moment in Dublin we’re predominantly involved in smartphone development, so we are the centre of excellence for PopCap’s smartphone work globally. Our iPhone and soon-to-be Android and Windows Phone 7 products are sold around the globe.
The studio here makes up about half of our staff, and that’s what really differentiates PopCap games from other global companies in Ireland and across Europe, who tend to have a localisation arm. We do have localisation too, but we’re are a little different in that we have a full studio here in Europe, as we do in Shanghai. The PopCap strategy is basically to recreate the Seattle operation in our regions.
How tough is the industry in Ireland? The country is going through a tough time economically.
We find the industry very robust here. We’re growing and have been growing for the last five or ten years, both in the UK and in all of our markets globally, which have been very strong, particularly in the mobile sector, where smartphones are beginning to dominate. That’s very much a focus for us here in Ireland.
But the mobile and social spaces are still in a state of flux. How do you stay secure in that kind of space?
Historically PopCap’s strategy has always been multiplatform, so our games are available on PC, mobile, Facebook, in-flight, online, DS, Xbox, retail and so on. That strategy has been what’s helped us keep momentum as we move into new frontiers such as social and smartphone.
The challenge with the smartphone is the emergence of new platforms. Our focus is currently on the iPhone, but Android we know will also be very important, as is Windows Phone 7, and the other platforms such as BADA, Memo and the Linux Platforms. Our goal is to get our games in front of everyone.
So does that include the likes of set-top and web TVs?
To be honest I can’t really speak on that, but I can tell you that part of our mantra to get you games to everyone means we are looking at all platforms.
PopCap isn’t afraid to cancel projects it isn’t happy with. Why is that?
First and foremost we love games, and the quality of a game is paramount and always, always comes first. We’re in a fortunate situation because Bejeweled has been such a flagship success for many years, so we can literally take two-to-four years to develop a title, and if it isn’t fun, it will be shelved.
Peggle was started many years ago, and then it was stopped, only to be picked up when it was right. Plants vs Zombies, for example, took three years to make. It was pretty much ready at two, but George Fan the designer wanted an extra year to make absolutely sure it was ready and the best it could possibly be. The philosophy at PopCap is this: ‘the game comes first, and it is ready when it’s ready’.