PopCap's Jason Kapalka (Part One)
On social acquisitions, Google vs Apple and supporting new platforms
Although just 10 years old, Popcap Games is something of a grand old man in the current gaming scene. Tackling browser, mobile and social games years before the start-ups that now dominate the headlines, it has been quietly consistent, growing in stature thanks to a twin philosophy of new ideas and regularly iterating existing properties and concepts. Despite both commercial and critical success with Peggle and Plants vs Zombies, the 50 million-selling match-3 title Bejewelled is indeed the jewel in its crown - even transitioning well to Facebook and microtransactions with its Blitz reinvention.
GamesIndustry.biz caught up with PopCap's thoughtful yet outspoken Chief Creative Officer and co-founder Jason Kapalka to hear his feelings on the rush towards social games, the future of the Apple vs Google vs Microsoft mobile war, the problems with Facebook, and the trends he's seen come and go doing PopCap's long tenure on what was once known as "casual" gaming.
We're working on it. I think it's inevitable, it's just right now it's an awkward platform because they're changing so much and they have all these different hardware layouts. The nice thing with iPhone is there's one - well, now it's two – there's one resolution, one piece of hardware, it's very straightforward. Android's not as bad as the old days, when you had to make the game for like 300 handsets. But it's still like three or four, or however many weird versions from various different manufacturers. It definitely makes it more work; Google really need to get a handle on it if they want to push it to more developers. I think it'll happen, it's just that it's definitely a hurdle to get over right now.
It's a hassle that iPhone developers don't have, and the marketplace for Android is still a bit confusing because all the different carriers have their own versions of it. I think it'll all get better, unless Google gets sued out of existence by Oracle. Right now it's definitely not the ideal game platform – very promising but there's still a bit of work to get there.
It is unfortunate. From our point of view, we're pretty agnostic about platform. The truth is we like Apple, we like Google, we like Microsoft. We're just trying to reach players. And the best way to reach players is the platform that they favour. Unfortunately right now you've got three of four of these big players, who are all at each other's throats and not at all co-operating as far as standards and so forth go. So we have the obvious issue of, y'know, Flash. It might be good for doing a game on Facebook, it might be even conceivable on Android – but it's absolutely not feasible on iPhone.
There are other issues like that, between Microsoft, Google and Apple – they all hate each other. Well, they're all competing. It's very hard to build stuff that works on all those platforms. You almost want to sit back and see who wins. Or ideally that they at least agree on some sort of standards, so you can say "alright, what's the standard, you tell me? Is it Flash, is it HTML5, is it somethin' else?"
If people can agree on one of those things, from our point of view we can work with everybody. As it is, when they're fighting each other we have to try and support all three of them which means we've got to spend three times as much effort to do that. That's tricky in terms of costs and to make time to make stuff, so we're looking forward to some kind of unification, whether that's by a victor or by a truce. That'd be better for us and ultimately better I think for game players.