PopCap CEO calls Plants vs Zombies 2 the company's 'biggest release ever'

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Aug 19, 2013 01:23 PM EDT

PopCap has become a big name developer for mobile titles in the last decade, with hits like Bejewled, Feeding Frenzy, Zuma, and others, but according CEO Dave Roberts, it's their tower defense styled Plants vs. Zombies franchise that's brought them the most acclaim. And the game's sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is its "biggest release" yet.

Plants vs Zombies 2 had a small beginning, with a limited window of exclusivity down under, but the game became available in the rest of the world late last week, leading to a massive increase in downloads.

"It's a big release. It is the biggest release for PopCap," Roberts told GeekWire. "So far so good. The numbers are looking awesome, and the Apple promo hasn't event kicked in yet," he said. "The fact that we hit number one in the app store charts, based purely on - I mean there's nothing, seriously. I don't think anyone at EA has seen anything go up that fast to the top downloads."

"By 6AM this morning, it was already at number one. Literally, between 5AM and 6AM. My guess, by lunch today, we will have hit the same number of downloads that it took us five months to hit in the first version. It probably took us close to a year to hit that number on the PC."

Presently, the game has considerably more positive ratings than negative ones, though a great deal of the customer reviews take issue with the game's free-to-play / pay-to-win model, which has seemingly become just another reason for people to hop on the EA hate train.

Roberts acknowledges the imperfect model, but feels the company went the right way with going free-to-play: "I think the model - like any other business model, it can be flawed, or it can be great. It depends on how you execute. People used to complain about ... (when we started) we sold $20 download games. You had a 60-minute trial on, and then you had to pay $20 for it. And then you owned it. It was two percent conversions, and it was the same thing. A lot of people would try it, and a small number of people would pay for it. And that's how PopCap grew up. We are not a stranger to that. There are ways to abuse that as well, and there were notorious games that had 63 minutes of great game play that sucked. I think there are ways to abuse any business model, and people sometimes say: 'Yeah, you can do horrible things with that.' Yeah, of course you can.... With PvZ we have a pretty important brand here and we are trying to protect it. Even the old game, the PvZ game, here years late, has millions of active daily users. It is a game that people love to play over and over."

Plants vs. Zombies 2 is currently available exclusively through Apple's AppStore and iTunes on various iOS devices. An Android version is yet to be announced. 

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