PopCap Games sometimes takes months or years to develop its titles, a process that has paid off in spades with the introduction of hits like Plants vs. Zombies. But now the Seattle game developer wants to empower its employees to build edgier games much faster. And to do that, the company today is launching a new games studio called 4th & Battery where employees are encouraged to quickly test “strange or marginal ideas.”
Or, as Ed Allard, vice president of studios at PopCap put it: “4th & Battery is a pressure valve intended to keep our heads from exploding.”
Plants vs. Zombies was an odd idea too. But it took many months to bring the idea to market, in part because of the fanatical focus on high-quality game play and design.
That won’t be the operating procedure at 4th & Battery, which is named after the cross streets at the company’s downtown Seattle headquarters. With the new studio, the company is looking to quickly tap the brainpower of the company’s developers to roll out new game concepts.
As part of that, 4th & Battery today released its first game, titled Unpleasant Horse, a free mobile game set to be released in Apple’s App Store.
In the game, players assume the role of an unpleasant horse with wings which destroys small birds and other horses. Check it out here:
Obviously, the gaming business is undergoing a massive transformation, a new world where easy-to-build titles become overnight sensations through distribution platforms like Facebook and mobile marketplaces. Speed to market sometimes matters as much as high-quality.
PopCap said that titles produced at 4th & Battery will be designed for more “mature” audiences, and the games will be distributed through a variety of platforms (mobile, social media, PC, etc.)
“4th & Battery is a purely experimental, creative label with none of the typical concerns like schedules, profitability, or even target audience. It’s kind of the video game equivalent of B-sides or short films,” said Jason Kapalka, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at PopCap. “Expect weirdness.”
Of course, PopCap does not plan to abandon its laser-focus on creating the absolute best games on the planet. And that’s part of the reason why it set up a separate unit to focus on the more nimble game development offering.
Founded in 2000, PopCap now employs more than 400 people worldwide. The company has been discussed as a potential IPO candidate, and 4th & Battery might be a way for the company to drive more revenue into the business on quicker time frames.