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American McGee teams with PopCap

Developer Spicy Horse gets new $3 million investment boost

Shanghai-based developer Spicy Horse has announced both a long-term development deal with PopCap Games and a new $3 million investment from Vickers Venture Partners.

Following the release of Alice: Madness Returns for Electronic Arts, Spicy Horse will begin to focus on 3D free-to-play online titles - beginning with a 3D online version of one of PopCap's existing franchises.

"The sense is that while a lot of social games have built their empires on 2D, there will be a moment where the genre has to shift into 3D, and we want to start that process now," said McGee to Gamasutra.

"The reason I originally came to China is that I wanted to get into that new model - I wanted to get away from console game production and retail, disc-based sales," he added - while describing Alice: Madness Returns as a "beautiful distraction".

In the future McGee expects Spicy Horse to develop a new game every "six months or so" or a minimum of five over the next two years.

As a result the company's headcount has shrunk from 75 to 55, which McGee characterises as not "terribly painful". "It's been a good transformation, and it feels like a much more efficient organisation," he claimed.

The new game has not been named, but is presumably a puzzle game from PopCap's portfolio of titles including Bejweled, Zuma, Peggle and Plants Vs. Zombies. "It's free-to-play, it will launch initially in Asia, it's multiplayer, and it's microtransaction-driven," said McGee.

Generally the studio will focus on support for online PC titles, mobile formats - primarily tablets - and social network games. Spicy Horse is also speaking to other businesses in the free-to-play market.

"With some [games] we want to go straight to Facebook and publish straight to Facebook," said McGee.

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