PAX East 2012: New business model changes development of PopCap Games (UPDATED)

UPDATE (4/7):

PopCap has contacted GamesBeat to clarify its position. “The fact that we’re looking at freemium and other models has not ‘delayed’ any new [PopCap] games,” said Jeff Green, the company’s director of social media. “It’s just yet another factor that PopCap now has to weigh as we work on new stuff, and this is a change from the past. But, really, it’s no more of a factor than, say, gameplay balancing, level design, or the naming of game characters.”

Green further explained that no date has been announced — or set internally — for Peggle 2 or Plants vs. Zombies 2. Instead, he says the company employs a “when it’s done” philosophy.

Original post (4/6):

Jeff Green, PopCap Game‘s director of social media, says that implementing microtransactions is prolonging the development of the Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies sequels.

In an interview with GamesBeat at PAX East, Green said that the development team isn’t turning back from the freemium payment model anytime soon. It takes a while to get used to making freemium games, which are changing the landscape for how players pay for entertainment.

“[Free-to-play games] will probably be a big part of PopCaps’s strategy,” Green said. He left room open for alternative forms of revenue generation, but made it clear that this is the company’s focus moving forward.

When GamesBeat asked Green if adjusting the gameplay of Peggle 2 and Plants vs. Zombies 2 to work with microtransactions was delaying development, Green said: “I think that’s fair. The whole world has changed since Peggle 1 came out — even since Plants vs. Zombies 1 came out.”

Green, who acts as the public face of PopCap, the Seattle-based casual game publisher now owned by Electronic Arts, was quick to list a number of other philosophical decisions the company is working through.

“There are people at PopCap who want to ship [Peggle 2 and PVZ2] simultaneously on all platforms on day one and others who think we should have different experiences for different people on different platforms,” Green said.

PopCap launched Peggle in 2007 for $20 on PC and Mac. Since then, the developer moved the game to Apple’s iOS for $5. Peggle hit the top spot on App Store’s most downloaded apps when it dropped to $1. Last year, PopCap released Bejeweled Blitz for a dollar, but it hit its revenue potential only when it went free-to-play.

At PAX East, PopCap is promoting Solitaire Blitz, a 60-second version of solitaire with powerups. It’s the first PopCap game to release first on Facebook. Solitaire Blitz is also free-to-play.

According to Green, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies are the developer’s most popular games among the core-gaming audience. ┬áIt’s that audience that might be the most vocal about a significant change in the gameplay of those titles, but Green seems pretty confident.

“When I look at my leaderboard in a PopCap game, it’s all other PopCap employees,” Green said with a smile. “That’s because we focus on making games that we want to play.”