Casual game powerhouse PopCap has announced that it has hired Xbox Live Arcade GM Greg Canessa to the newly-created position of Vice President, video game platforms - Gamasutra caught up with Canessa to talk about his new position with "the casual Blizzard".
According to an official statement, Canessa will "be extending the leadership of PopCap’s... puzzle, word and simple action games on new and existing video game platforms, including consoles, handheld devices, and related online gaming services."
When Gamasutra asked Canessa about the reason for his change, the former Microsoft exec explained: “It really is about the opportunity that PopCap presents. Xbox Live Arcade was an amazing ride, and it is a permanent staple and marketplace. The developers as just now hitting their stride, and it is a really exciting environment. That said, I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and I thrive on creating and defining businesses.”
He added: “I've also been really excited about getting back into the game development space, especially over the last couple of years after working with various game developers one on one.”
As for what 'console platforms' Canessa will particularly be overseeing development and publishing for, he suggested: "The sky's the limit, frankly. We could develop content for these platforms, or even branch into publishing. Now, I have not been over to the PopCap office yet to discuss this with them, but I would say that within the video game platform area with game consoles and handheld devices, we would not be restricted by distribution. Retail plays into it, for sure, especially for handhelds like the DS and PSP. Our distribution philosophy is not excluding anything at this point, and retail could certainly be a part of this."
But why transition to the Bejeweled
creator? Canessa's reaction: “I think one of things that really excites me about PopCap is that as a smaller company, it brings a kind of nimbleness and agility to the business that you don't get with a bigger company such as Microsoft. PopCap is ideally positioned to embrace new opportunities as they arise, and can turn on a dime.”
Prior to his tenure at Microsoft, Canessa was VP of Online Marketing at Idealab, and a a senior marketing executive at Vivendi Games for most of the 1990s, after beginning his professional career at Apple Computer as a games marketer and evangelist. But he chose to compare PopCap to a notable MMO/PC powerhouse in his comments to Gamasutra:
"Looking at Blizzard, there is a company that has done it right. They work and rework a product until they get it right. I believe PopCap does what Blizzard does, but in the casual space. They make really polished, fun games. [PopCap is] growing out of their infancy, and are starting to dabble in alternative forms of distribution."
And what of the challenges at PopCap, which is, as Canessa admits, still a relatively young and growing firm? He commented: "I wouldn't say that they have been bad at branching into other markets or platforms, but they haven't had the time to devote to these efforts yet. That said, they are enormously forward thinking in developing on new platforms".
He concluded: “Plus, the best part is that I get to have my cake and eat it to. I get to stay in the console space, though instead of being devoted to one platform and one console, now I get to work on world class products on multiple platforms. My heart and passion is in games and content, and this makes a move to a smaller company all the more exciting and refreshing.”