PopCap’s 4th & Battery studio brings back Candy Train (this time for the iPhone)

PopCap’s new game studio, 4th & Battery, is gearing up for the release of its second game. And it’s an oldie, but a goodie. PopCap is re-releasing Candy Train, a game that the company first introduced for a short spell several years ago. Now, the game is returning tomorrow as a free iOS game for the iPhone and iPad.

IGN has more details on the new title, with PopCap’s Jeff Green telling the online publication that “we understand not everyone was into the idea of slaughtering horses.”

That’s a reference to the studio’s first title, Unpleasant Horse, which was initially rejected by Apple. (The game eventually made it into Apple’s App store).

PopCap unveiled 4th & Battery in early April, launching the studio in order to develop mobile and social games in a faster development cycles. Ed Allard, vice president of studios at PopCap, described 4th & Battery at the time as a “pressure valve intended to keep our heads from exploding.”

In other PopCap news, the company announced today that it has entered into an exclusive partnership to bring Plants vs. Zombies to the Chinese social networking site Renren Inc. PopCap said that it marks the first time that a Western game developer has received an exclusive game launch within Renren, which boasts 117 million active users.

Renren and PopCap first announced their partnership last summer, and PC World notes that PopCap nows has 100 employees in its Shanghai office.

PopCap is currently weighing the possibility of an initial public offering.

UPDATE: Jeff Green at PopCap provides more of the background on how the game came about. He writes in an email to GeekWire:

So, the game actually used to be available to play for free on PopCap.com, in the early 00s.  But it always had a lot of fans within PopCap itself.  A little while ago, a PopCap employee named Sophia Hohing, who was a tools engineer at the time, and a fan of the game, decided to take on the task of bringing it to the iOS as a way of basically learning the ropes as a game developer, and proving to herself she could do it. She then enlisted Adam MacDonnell, who helped her update it from the original’s 8-bit graphics.

So the real answer to your question,  “why did we want to bring this one back?”  is that we liked the game ourselves, and wanted people to play it again.  Sophia and Adam, on their own time, used the opportunity to teach themselves how to bring a game to fruition.  And the 4th and Battery label enabled us to release it for free without having to worry about where it fit into the PopCap scheme of things.

All along, the point of the 4th and Battery project has been to enable our developers to do exactly this: Get their hands dirty with game ideas, and see them actually get played by fans without going through the larger “machine,”  with tons of development time, that our big titles go through. We are hoping that it’s a win-win for everyone: The developers get to make new games, and the fans get to play them for super cheap, or,  in the case of Candy Train and Unpleasant Horse, for free.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.