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PopCap's Co-Founders: How We Fell In Love With Casual

In today's Gamasutra feature, PopCap's founders reveal that they never planned to stick with casual games, and had "aspirations of... [making] core games" -- an
Think PopCap, think casual games -- but that wasn't always the goal. In a new Gamasutra feature interview, the company's co-founders reveal that they started out hoping lite titles would simply be a stepping stone. "I had aspirations of eventually kind of working on more of what we would call 'core games' today -- kind of like lighter versions of core games," says co-founder Brian Fiete. "But yeah, I didn't think we would stick to the casual games genre." Most PopCap employees like action and strategy titles, Fiete says, and he was no different: "I figured eventually -- once we'd made some money with these quick Java games -- we'd be able to afford a longer development cycle and keep working our way up to be like the big boys." Co-founder Jason Kapalka says that early PopCap titles actually did focus on strong multiplayer components, "but the problem with those was that they were very hard to sell to anyone else," he says. "The other sites didn't want to buy them because it was a pain to try and integrate all the multiplayer aspects." Kapalka -- who had been at Pogo prior to PopCap -- is quick to point out that he went into PopCap with a deep respect for casual play: "We weren't just slumming it," he said. "We really did like those kind of simple games." Not so much for Fiete, at least at first: "I didn't have too much attraction to them in the beginning," he said. "I kind of saw it as they were easy to make. I thought we could rip them off pretty fast. I thought we could be superior developers who wouldn't have all this overhead, all this bureaucracy." But he found titles like Bejeweled to be surprisingly gripping once he began working on them: "I started finding how satisfying it was to take a very simple concept and execute it absolutely perfectly," he says. "There's its own joy in that. Doing a simple game very, very well is just as rewarding as making a really complicated game that's executed okay." The pair loved the simplicity of casual gaming so much that they decided to abandon plans to "graduate" to core development -- a decision bolstered by the effect they saw their games having on audiences that never would have played games otherwise. "I was quite famous when I went into our local bowling alley on Seniors' Night wearing my PopCap bowling shirt," says Kapalka. "That was... not quite like the Beatles, but it was pretty funny how many people at Seniors' Night would recognize the PopCap logo." "That was probably the turning point when we realized that this was a worthwhile endeavor to do, not just a stepping stone so that we could make our RTS or FPS games." The full feature examines 10 years of PopCap, in an in-depth interview with its cofounders on the past, present and future of their work.

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