PopCap Games has launched two new online-gaming services in Asia. First is a rework of Plants vs Zombies, now fleshed with a variety of elements common to social network gaming, which has seen release on Chinese social network RenRen. Second is Pop Tower, a collaboration with Taito that will launch on Japanese mobile social network Gree.
These moves come on the back of existing initiatives in the region, including the PopCap World platform published in conjunction with NCsoft, and the release of Bejeweled Blitz onto key Japanese social network Mixi.
Finding traction in Asia's long-established online-game industry has been a consideration point for growth for many social network gaming companies in the past year, and PopCap has been industrious in seizing the possibilities of publishing with a globalised reach. Beneath any such agility, however, are two key factors driving the manner in which PopCap's operations have evolved. First is the strength of persistent appeal in its IP, founded on the back of investment in development. This is a crucial feature for gaining attention in such crowded and competitive markets as those of Asia's key online-gaming territories.
What's equally crucial, however, is the transformation that PopCap has imposed on the key titles in its portfolio. Bejeweled, Zuma and Plants vs Zombies continue to exist as standalone, download-to-own offerings along various PC and mobile channels, but each has also been heavily repurposed to fit the content culture of free-to-play platforms, such as social networks. This marks a change of strategy for the company that has taken place over the past two years, as it transitions to integrate online-service elements into its operations, and it's a change that's relevant to many legacy publishers of the casual gaming sphere (a gauntlet that has also been taken up by such companies as Playfirst and King.com, via Facebook).
For PopCap, this change has also been underlined by the founding of a new publishing label, 4th & Battery, a channel within which it can release smaller, more experimental titles (and has generated two titles to date, Unpleasant Horse and Candy Train). This will allow the publisher to testbed new IPs before deciding which, if any, will respond to the investment required to migrate them to online-service propositions.
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