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What Does The Big EA Buyout Mean for PopCap Games (and for Bejeweled in World of Warcraft)?

Illustration for article titled What Does The Big EA Buyout Mean for PopCap Games (and for emBejeweled/em in emWorld of Warcraft/em)?

What will the $750 million buy out of PopCap Games, makers of Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled, do to the beloved developer of quirky, casually engaging games? It could mean you get future PopCap Games faster—but it doesn't mean the end of games like Peggle in World of Warcraft.


Despite PopCap Games making versions of original hits Bejeweled and Peggle for World of Warcraft, the online multiplayer sensation published by EA's massive rival Activision Blizzard, PopCap says its philosophy in dealing with projects of that capacity isn't likely to change.


Garth Chouteau, public relations VP at PopCap, tells Kotaku that we shouldn't expect drastic changes at the Seattle based developer, which employs 450 to 500, nor in its approach to dealing with its new owner's chief competitor, corporately sensitive though that may be.

"The things that we've done with Blizzard in paying tribute to each other's games, there's really not been any money involved in those things," Chouteau explained. He called the PopCap-made mini-game mods for World of Warcraft "just game developers being game developers."

"There isn't really a formal business relationship between Blizzard and PopCap," he said, adding that he doesn't think we'll see anything changing with past PopCap games or future ones. That said, "I think there will be changes in terms of expanding our reach," Chouteau added, bringing titles like Bookworm, Zuma and Peggle to "more places and more people."

"Exactly how our games might appear in the Origin service or on or other parts of EA's vast empire are still to be determined, but those are certainly things we look at," he said.


Chouteau said that bringing PopCap's biggest hits—including Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle, Zuma, Bookworm—to more platforms more quickly with the help of Electronic Arts is a big benefit to the developer. One of the company's more recent releases, last year's Bejeweled 3, will be ported to console platforms later this year.


"We can work with a team at EA to do ports more quickly, more effectively," Chouteau said, "We have fairly modest development resources and there are ways that EA can bring some of its very substantial resources to bear."

EA employed some 7,600 full-time staffers worldwide as of March 2011.

While that extra manpower might free up PopCap's in-house teams to get new games based on new intellectual property done faster, don't expect a big change in the way the game maker does what it does best.


"We're about as slow as it gets," Chouteau said of the PopCap's ability to release all-new games on multiple platforms. "I don't think that changes materially. We devote a fraction of our overall development resources to new IP. We have more resources devoted to taking existing IP and bringing it to new platforms."

"I think that's going to continue as-is," he says adding there's nothing in the Electronic Arts deal that demands that PopCap must deliver a new games on an annual basis, forced to churn out Plants vs. Zombies '12 or a new edition of Jeff Green's EA Tour: Round 2.


As for PopCap working on EA properties, like Dead Space, Need for Speed, or Mirror's Edge, Chouteau says he's "not sure that that's really been explored," but that the nature of the deal between EA and PopCap suggests that developing new, original IP as it has for the past decade is the newly acquired developer's charge.

Choteau's take on the EA deal—which he says was "a competitive scenario," that "there were other prospective buyers involved"—was simple: "It's all good. If anything, certain aspects of the way we do business just get easier and get bigger."

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EA Policy on Selling Games on Third-Party Download Sites

At EA, we believe in choice. We want our products in all the places gamers go to download the best games and services. To that end, we offer games to EVERY major download service including Amazon, Walmart, Gamestop, and Steam.

One of the most exciting aspects of games is that they just keep getting bigger and better. Both developers and consumers have evolved beyond the traditional model that used to limit us to 15-20 hours of play on a typical disc. Today, post-launch downloads of new maps, vehicles and other content extend the experience, adding hours of fun and a lot of value.

Every download site that hosts our games sets business terms for our relationship. These terms are often complex, but the goal is to provide a hassle-free experience for the gamer. Prices, content exclusives, and loyalty programs may differ from site to site. Consumers can pick the site that bests suits their needs.

Any retailer can sell our games, but we take direct responsibility for providing patches, updates, additional content and other services for the individuals and communities that play our games. These players are connecting to our servers, so we want to provide them with the very best service. This works well for our partnership with Gamestop, Amazon and other online retailers.

However, when a download service forbids publishers from contacting players with patches, new levels, items and other services – it disrupts our ability to provide the ongoing support players expect from us. At present, this is the case with only one download service. While EA offers its entire portfolio to this site, they have elected to not post many of our games. We hope to find a mutually agreeable solution to this issue soon.

Going forward, EA will continue to work with download partners and continue offering our games for sale on all major download sites.

The good news is: you’ve got plenty of choices.



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