PopCap co-founder says he's 'jealous' of Zynga

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In case you haven't heard the news before now, Bejeweled creator PopCap is planning to go public sometime this year. Games.com -The Blog! met up with company co-founder Jon Vechey (pictured above) and CEO Dave Roberts during a NYC media tour where they've been outlining their plans to make a splash on the stock market.

Even in the middle of all of this big news, Vechey -- during a larger conversation about social gaming -- tells me he's a little jealous of FarmVille-maker Zynga's overnight success, and the fact that they've managed to reach millions of players who have previously been untouchable.

"[PopCap] has benefited from Zynga's success," he adds, meaning less that they've been able to transform FarmVille players into Bejeweled Blitz players, but have been able to access new players via Facebook and been able to successfully turn their social version of Bejeweled into a money making machine. Bejeweled Blitz earned over a million dollars in the past few weeks, he says. Not bad, considering a year ago the game wasn't making anything.

popcap plants vs zombies drop7Last year, CEO Roberts was quoted talking about Zynga's ability to buy customers and, then added in a dig about how good content will win out in the end. Vechey still backs up that notion, but says that Zynga has apparently grown aware of this and is now doubling down on creating more sophisticated game experiences by acquiring 'real' game companies like Words with Friends developer Newtoy and, more recently, Drop7 creators Area/Code. (As a side note, Vechey is a big Drop7 fan, and even pulled out his iPhone to give me an impromptu demo on how to play it).

"Before if you asked me if Zynga would be around in five years, I would have said no. Now I can see Zynga being around -- the question is whether it will be relevant or not."

Speaking of relevant, Vechey says that he doesn't expect casual downloadable PC games to be relevant for much longer, and he blames game portals, like Yahoo, MSN (and our very own AOL Games) who -- for years -- demanded a 70% cut to to distribute those games. Now you can work with Apple who just takes a 30% cut and doesn't have a problem promoting other companies, he says.

As for the topic of the day -- PopCap going public -- Roberts seems cautiously optimistic about making the jump. PopCap, as a company, tries to protect developer's creativity, and if going public jeopardizes that, he says, "We won't do it."

popcap offshoot 4th & battery's unpleasant horse

Creativity seems to be king at PopCap's new 4th & Battery game studio, which will soon launch its first game Unpleasant Horse for iPhone (pictured above). This mobile game is far from your standard family friendly PopCap fare, where you control a flying horse that destroys birds and sends other horses to their demise (by shoving them into a meat grinder).

"People are making way too big a deal of this new company," says Roberts. PopCap created this offshoot, he says, to help the developers blow off creative steam and come up with new ideas that can be executed faster than say, the next Bejeweled or Plants vs. Zombies game. However, if these one-off games strike a chord with the public, he says, then they might be considered for re-release under the official PopCap label.

These experimental games are brewed during week-long PopCamp sessions, where groups of in-house developers come up with and execute on ideas that might be the next big game. Unpleasant Horse was the product of the first PopCamp and the second PopCamp is happening this week, where -- who knows -- the next Bejeweled or Plants vs. Zombies just might be in the works.

Image Credits: John Keatley, area.code flickr
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