CEO Dave Roberts and co-founder Jason Kapalka leaving January 8th

Last PopCap co-founder takes studio helm

Two long-time leaders of PopCap will retire from the studio on January 8th, leaving John Vechey as the last remaining founding member.

In 2000 Jason Kapalka, along with Brian Fiete and Vechey, formed the studio that went on to create hits like Bejewelled, Plants Vs. Zombies, and Peggle.

CEO Dave Roberts joined the studio in 2005, and VentureBeat reports that he and Kapalka are now stepping down, with Vechey taking charge of the studio.

When EA Sports head Andrew Wilson took charge of the publishing giant last year, it was noted that this could mean a greater emphasis on the development side of the business.

PopCap was bought by EA in 2011, and the decision to give the helm to one of the original team while returning the studio to a development rather than a publishing focus suggests the talk may have some real merit.

For Vechey, it amounts to the same thing – taking the reins while the studio is in a transitional period.

When PopCap launched, the casual games space wasn’t big on the radar, but thanks to the popularity of social and mobile gaming, that’s changed.

“We need to get back to the place where we used to be and not just in mobile,” said Vechey.

“PopCap’s mission right now is to create the greatest mobile game studio in the world, and we’re going to do that by only making games that are beloved by players. We’re focusing on our foundation in 2014 – talent, process, and most importantly, great products, around that mission.”

The work has already begun; Plants Vs. Zombies 2 launched last summer, and Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will hit the market early this year.

It’s a big departure for PopCap, but after a slow year in 2012, it’s probably a good sign.

Vechey says the studio isn’t stopping there, and that he thinks PopCap needs to start producing more original intellectual properties again.

“We have underinvested in new IP,” he said.

“Getting more new IP out per year is the goal. We want to formalise the creative process and get it to scale better.”

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