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PopCap Honcho Decries "Lowest Common Denominator" Development

| 31 May 2011 23:39
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Ed Allard, the head of worldwide game development at PopCap, says the practice of releasing games simultaneously across multiple platforms leads to "lowest common denominator" thinking, which is why PopCap doesn't do it.

When a big new game hits the market, more often than not it comes out for all intended platforms at the same time. PC, PS3, 360, Wii, whatever; while there are times when some platforms take longer than others - the Mass Effect series is a good example - it's a relatively rare phenomenon and usually the result of exclusivity deals rather than technical considerations. But PopCap generally takes a different approach, releasing games one platform at a time, and there's a good reason for it.

"The rolling platform release strategy has been something that's evolved out of, not out of a business plan - although it turned out to be pretty good from a business perspective - but it's more about being able to approach these platforms with such individual care and attention," he said in an interview with GamesIndustry. "Releasing them all simultaneously, well, we worry about that forcing us into a kind of lowest common denominator thinking."

"When the console industry started hitting a point where everything was coming out multiplatform, you started feeling that. If you've got Wii, 360 and PS3 day and date, you kind of end up playing a Wii game on your PS3 as opposed to playing a great PS3 game, because that's sort of what it takes from a development perspective," he continued. "So instead of taking that approach we'd rather, if you're playing a PopCap game on 360, it feels like a great 360 game, you've got to assume that you'll never play that game anywhere else, as opposed to you playing a great Xbox version of a PC game."

PopCap will likely continue with staggered releases, although Allard said that multiplatform launches could figure in the company's future. But if it does, he added that it will likely be a case of simply holding back releases on some platforms until everything is ready to go.

And while the PopCap brand isn't exactly synonymous with hardcore gaming, Allard believes the distinction between core and casual gamers is rapidly disappearing and that it's the core gamers who are finding themselves on the outside looking in.

"What's interesting is that right now, if you think about core gaming, I think of that as the niche genre as opposed to the mainstream. That change happened almost overnight - it would have been a ridiculous thing to say three or four years ago but now it's pretty much reality," he said. "With core consoles getting more casual, and social becoming so widespread, and iPhone bringing games to so many people who didn't think they were gamers, all of a sudden we woke up and found ourselves thinking that the casual distinction is kind of a useless one."

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