Talking iPad development with PopCap’s Andrew Stein

Last month’s announcement of the iPad may have been one of the worst kept secrets in Apple’s history, but little was known about its potential as a gaming device until its unveiling. Now, only a month later, developers are well on their way to formulating their gameplans as it pertains to Apple’s upcoming tablet device. We recently had the chance to pick the brain of PopCap’s Director of Mobile Business Development Andrew Stein to see where the publishing powerhouse stood in terms of early iPad impressions.

What are you initial impressions of the iPad in terms of gaming potential? Can it provide an experience that varies greatly from that of the iPhone?

PopCap loves to see devices that offer new experiences and force us to look at our games and rethink how we can make the best game possible using those new features. The iPad looks like an amazing piece of technology. We’re very excited to start playing around with it. While it is obviously based on the iPhone, having a much bigger, high-resolution screen does get us thinking about the new experiences we could create that just aren’t possible on the much smaller iPhone screen.

We’re definitely intrigued by the new iPad. It’s big, high-resolution screen and super fast processor should allow us to enhance our games and make the iPad versions fully on par with, or better, than our original PC games.

PopCap loves to see devices that offer new experiences and force us to look at our games and rethink how we can make the best game possible using those new features. As a developer, the iPad offers the same easy development environment as the iPhone but amps that up with tremendous technical specs and a potential whole new way for somebody to interact with a game. As a consumer, the iPad has the potential to kickstart a whole new wave of creative innovation similar to the wave kicked off by the launch of the App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Have you gone hands on with the iPad yet? What did you think?

Apple has publicly released the OS 3.2 SDK and the simulator for the iPad to assist developers in getting a head-start on building for the iPad. We’ve got our teams actively looking at development options and thinking about how we can make some great game experiences for the iPad.

While nearly every iPhone game will work on the device, there are bound to be interface difficulties due to the size difference. Will you be tweaking any of your current games to allow for iPad-friendlier gaming?

Bigger screen and more horsepower won’t affect development here at PopCap, much if at all. We pride ourselves on making games that will run on 10-year old PCs, let alone some gadget from the future that Steve Jobs has brought back to 2010. We’ll certainly look at the unique capabilities of the iPad and work hard to utilize those in instances where they can make our games even more fun, but we certainly don’t build games with an eye to pushing the maximum capabilities/performance of a device.

There’s absolutely the possibility of existing games being re-released for the iPad; this doesn’t mean they’ll be showing up tomorrow, however. We tend to take longer than most game makers in bringing our games to new platforms, but when they do show up we like to think they’re as optimized and customized for the platform in question as they can be 🙂

We’ve already spent huge amounts of time adapting our games to be great touch experiences on the iPhone – this isn’t necessarily an easy task as we have to take into account things like the fact that flesh isn’t transparent so we need to account for fingers that might be blocking part of the screen – so we think the iPad gives us a bigger, more powerful canvas to experiment and explore new ideas.

Does PopCap Games have any specific plans to release an iPad game in the launch window? Beyond that?

Not at this time. Rest assured that we never just bring games to any platform – we make them awesome on those new platforms.

We’re looking carefully at the iPad and are very excited about the possibilities. We hope to be letting you know more about our plans soon. Rest assured that we never just bring games to any platform – we make them awesome on those new platforms

Although we haven’t announced anything specifically for the iPad, we’re always evaluating new devices and new platforms to see if they’d be good vehicles to bring our games to consumers. Whenever we think a new device could offer a great gaming experience and help us be creative and innovative in how we could adapt our games, we always take a very hard look at it. Historically, PopCap has always been among the leaders in bringing content to new platforms and always among the leaders in sales on those new platforms.

Do you have any other thoughts, feelings, or comments pertaining to the iPad?

PopCap is, at its heart, a creative company – our teams are big fans of Apple products and love the iPhone and iPod touch. We’re always excited about the possibilities that are created by a new piece of technology, particularly when the development environment is mature and easy to get into. In saying that however, Apple is definitely entering a market segment where there hasn’t been a clearly successful product yet -whether this is because previous products just haven’t met customer’s needs very well or because consumers aren’t interested in that type of device is not clear. But if any company can create a new market with a tablet-like product, it’s definitely Apple.

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