Yes he did. As reported by Libe Goad of Games.com, PopCap co-founder said at the IGDC Leadership Forum that “downloadable [PC] games are irrelevant. We only work on them because they work well to go to other platforms.”
A strange and crazy comment, considering PopCap is credited as being the first casual games company to hit it big with Bejeweled and is still considered a leading developer for casual download games.
Yet, when you put his quote in context of entire keynote address, what John is saying is not so strange and crazy after all.
The second part of his quote is as follows:
“iPhone didn’t exist two years ago. There was no App Store. There was no Facebook platform. We need to look at new games and make them in different ways. And what makes one of our games ‘one of our games’ is really changing.”
What Vechey is saying is that games are evolving across all platforms due to the success of the iPhone and Facebook.
For instance, on the iPhone, when you buy an app, the game developer can auto-update you with new levels (that they can offer for free or charge for) or update you with a new build to remove bugs for the game you just bought. That would actually be a positive feature to add to the downloadable games market (and in fact, Steam actually does so now).
On the iPhone and Facebook, a game developer can create an ongoing relationship with the customer (which ironically, most developers on Facebook fail at, considering how atrocious their customer service can be). If this can be extended to Downloads, by all means, it’s all good.
Or, maybe we can take what Vechey said at face value, that PopCap sees downloads more as a stepping stone to other platforms.
In which case, one has to wonder, why create the downloadable itself? It makes no sense. If the App Store is more flexible to update games, is relatively cheap to develop to, and has a huge customer base, why not cut to the chase and just launch on the iPhone first and skip PC downloads?
Also, PopCap’s games such as Plants vs. Zombies and Peggle probably made a lot more money through iPhone, iPad, and Xbox than as a PC Download. It must be acknowledged, however, that this has more to say about the genres of those games than Downloads itself. The Download Games industry continues to be a growing, multi-million dollar industry that many game companies are super successful at it. Peggle may not have a huge hit as a download, but a lot of hidden object and time management games have.
John Vechey is a wicked smart guy who apparently looks like me and gives a good speech.Other noteworthy tidbits from John Vechey’s speech:
- PopCap was offered a $60 million acquisition offer but the founders did not accept it since they were not in the business of just making money, they were in the business of making games.
- PopCap has now grown to 375 employees and now controls its own destiny. I agree and disagree with John Vechey on this point. On the one hand, PopCap owns great game brands that allows them to dictate their terms. But if they don’t own their distribution (games are distributed through Apple’s iOS devices, Microsoft’s Xbox, Facebook) do they really control their destiny?
- When PopCap designs games now, they have to factor in Facebook’s social graph as well as the various other platforms and devices. It makes game design a more complicated process.
- He believes that micro-transactions is a better model for game developers and players than a single fee as you see in most download games today. More players get to play the game and in the long run, developers make more money per title.
- In Facebook games, you are not going to be successful and there is no need to out-Zynga Zynga. PopCap hopes to prove that the imminent launch of Zuma Blitz (which I am playing secretly now and so far, am loving it).
Finally, John closes on a very interesting quote:
“As we do a game likeZuma Blitz, we can prove that the only game that’s going to succeed is notMafia Wars, or a farming game. We’ll prove that it’s not the only way to succeed. And people like George [Fan], thePlants vs. Zombiescreator” — who dislikes social games at present — “will see the way to go is social.”
One could argue that the games world can now be divided now between those like John Vechey who love social, those like George Fan, that don’t like social, and those unique gamers are like both social and non-social games.
The key is to remember that while games are played increasingly by everyone around the world, not one size fits all. Perhaps that should be the takeaway from John Vechey’s excellent and insightful keynote address.