PopCap

Ben Rotholtz, VP-Marketing

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Credit: Tony Pettinato


YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- With super-popular games such as "Bejeweled," "Zuma" and "Peggle," PopCap was already a well-established leader in the casual gaming space and had established a reputation for its unconventional and even quirky content. And then along came "Plants vs. Zombies." From its launch in spring 2009, it captured attention with its friendly-looking zombie attackers and funky plant weapons. Casual gamers and hard-core console players were both drawn to the game.

But it was the debut of the PvZ iPhone app this February that really gave the game, and PopCap, momentum. More than 300,000 copies were sold in only nine days, pulling in $1 million, and setting an App Store record at the time. PopCap has added a console game and launched an Xbox 360 version this fall, along with plans for a handheld Nintendo DS version in early 2011.

Initially, a small marketing budget helped inspire creativity among the PvZ staffers who were sure it would be a hit. Think lots of inexpensive-to-produce online content, including an original spoofy Zombie temp office worker series; a "Zombatar" that zombie-ized users' profile pictures; and posting of the weirdly popular song "Zombies on Your Lawn" that is the payoff for winning the game. Fans of the game, including celebrities who mentioned PvZ on talk shows, also helped spur a cottage industry of plushies, hand-painted T-shirts and ceramic lawn ornaments in homage of the game.

However, the story wasn't all just lovable zombies this year for PopCap. In the fall, it launched the fourth iteration of its beloved godmother of casual games, "Bejeweled." But it didn't do so without a nod to "Bejeweled's" quirky siblings: PopCap launched a cross-platform marketing strategy that brought in several fan favorites.

"'Plants vs. Zombies' has been such a phenomenon, we sort of needed to make way for another one of our franchises. And even though it's 'Bejeweled,' the mash-up with 'Zombies' and other franchises helps bridge between them. ... Our fans revel in this stuff," Ben Rotholtz, VP-marketing, said.

The cross-platform appeal comes from a distinguishable PopCap brand ethos, he said.

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