When people think of PopCap Games, they tend to think of giant, polished, million-selling casual franchises like Bejeweled and Peggle. They don’t tend to think of small, experimental, indie games aimed at a mature audience – but that’s exactly the type of games they’ll be publishing through their new small games label, 4th & Battery.
Named after the intersection that the PopCap Games office is located on in Seattle, 4th & Battery has been launched to give PopCap’s design team the chance to play around with new ideas without worrying about the structure and demands of designing games to be published under the standard PopCap label.
“4th & Battery is a pressure valve intended to keep our heads from exploding,” explained Ed Allard, Executive Vice President of Studios at PopCap. “The PopCap brand has become closely associated with ultra-high quality, polish and attention to detail — which is a great thing. But our standard game development process is therefore long and involved, and doesn’t really accommodate all of the creativity pumping through our collective veins. 4th & Battery gives us a way to quickly try really strange or marginal ideas, and to give our designers a safe area to hone their chops.”
Games developed under the 4th & Battery label will be playable on a variety of platforms including PC, Facebook, and iPhone. The studio’s first release, Unpleasant Horse, will be available for free later this month on the iOS App Store. In it, players will take the role of a flying horse with a bad temperament who progresses through the game by destroying small birds and landing on top of somewhat friendlier horses, forcing them into what developers call “a perpetual meat grinder.” As will be the case with some of 4th & Battery’s planned releases, Unpleasant Horse will be aimed at a mature audience.
“4th & Battery is a purely experimental, creative label with none of the typical concerns like schedules, profitability, or even target audience. It’s kind of the video game equivalent of B-sides or short films,” explained Jason Kapalka, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at PopCap. “Expect weirdness.”