PopCap's Stein: Consumers will pay higher prices for premium experiences on iPad

But higher resolution itself isn't enough

PopCap's Stein: Consumers will pay higher prices for premium experiences on iPad
Last time I interviewed Andrew Stein, director of mobile business development at PopCap Games, I cleverly came up with the title, "We're definitely intrigued by iPad but no launch games".

So as the company's Plants vs. Zombies HD launches with iPad, we meet again.

Hopefully the headline for this interview won't be proved so completely wrong.

Pocket Gamer: How significant do you think iPad will be for PopCap?

Andrew Stein: We're very excited about the iPad. Similar devices have launched before with mixed success, but iPad is the first one with a compelling design and with a huge amount of existing content.

We think that it will be successful and drive a new tablet category, although it will obviously take some time to build.

Do you think it (and tablets in general) have more longterm potential for PopCap than mobile?

Mobile devices will continue to be a critical component of what PopCap does. You take your phone everywhere. A larger tablet, like the iPad, is something you need to choose to take with you as it doesn't neatly fit into a pocket. So only the phone really offers the potential for a user to play PopCap games wherever they are.

The tablet might offer a richer experience due to its larger screen, higher resolution graphics but it will be complementary to mobile, not a replacement.

How easy has it been to modify the existing Plants vs. Zombies' code and assets, especially without access to hardware?

So far, development has gone very smoothly. The iPhone/iPad SDK is very robust and mature and Apple has done a great job of providing great tools, including the iPad simulator, that give an excellent idea of what to expect on actual hardware.

What features of the iPad do you think will be most important in terms of making games that make use of its potential?

Obviously features like the enhanced multi-touch and larger, high resolution screen are the biggest differences between the iPad and the iPhone/iPod touch.

I think once developers have time to really think about how these elements offer a customer experience that is fundamentally different to than which you can get on the iPhone or a netbook or other PC-like product, we'll start to see some incredibly innovative and creative games.

How do you think the demographics of early iPad owners will differ to the iPhone/iPod touch market?

The iPad is certainly an exciting piece of technology but it's not cheap, even though it's not nearly as expensive as some were forecasting. We think the early audience will be similar to the typical electronics early adopter -younger, more male.

But the success that Apple has had in reaching very broad demographics with iPods and the iPhone, along with the incredible array of iPhone content that will be compatible with the iPad will tend to push it to a wider audience.

If the purchasers tend to be younger and more male, the users of the iPad will be a wide ranging demographic. This is great for PopCap as our games appeal to everybody.

How aggressively will PopCap be releasing iPad games?

We are always focused on making the best adaptation of our games possible. We've always taken the time to make sure that we offer an experience worthy of the platform on which the game is played. So our release schedule will be driven more by our studio and less about trying to get things to market as quickly as possible.

In saying that, we have Plants vs Zombies HD available at launch. Beyond that, we do expect to have more games released in 2010 but we haven't made any announcements yet.

What's your take on pricing for iPad games?

The App Store can be a crazy environment, which makes it challenging to predict pricing. What we do know is that consumers have proven willing to pay for content and have been willing to pay higher prices for premium experiences.

To the extent that developers really leverage the iPad to offer games that take advantage of the iPad features to create unique premium experiences, then consumers will be willing to pay higher prices and still feel like they're getting great value.

So the bigger screen itself won't be able to drive higher prices but the bigger screen can allow the developer to create a more immersive, better, richer experience that a consumer feels is worth a higher price.

Thanks to Andrew for his time.

Plants vs. Zombies HD is out now, priced $9.99, €7.99 or £5.99.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.