GDC Online 11: John Vechey on the social gaming transition and why PopCap now has monetisation designers

#gdc_online Change is always in the air

GDC Online 11: John Vechey on the social gaming transition and why PopCap now has monetisation designers
The keynote talk of GDC Online was from PopCap's John Vechey.

Entitled 'Playing well with others: How PopCap creates compelling social game experiences', he focused was how the industry was changing, even for companies such as PopCap, recently bought by EA for $750 million.

"Social is different and it's always changing," Vechey said, pointing to metrics, backend services, micro-transactions, constant updates and different design methodology.

"Smartphone mobile looks a lot like social," he added.

Decision making

The bottomline is that with new ways to develop games combined with new ways to sell games, PopCap is in the middle of a transition.

It's experienced this before, moving from being a pure developer to becoming a developer-publisher in 2005. Now it's becoming a connected developer-publisher.

"These transitions are hard, and similar," he explained.

Part of these transitions have been how PopCap has acquired talent, buying other developers, not for their games, but for the strategic leadership and experiences of there executive team.

This has driven significant change within PopCap, which started out with walled off social and non-social studios; something it's recently dissolved.

"We don't have any concept of the 'social studio'. Social is everywhere now," Vechey said.

Getting better

Linked to this is the process of learning new skills, whether by training internally or hiring externally.

"Now we have a job description for monetisation designers. That's not a joke. That's a game designer who can design how to charge for a product. Things like that and metrics are important now," he revealed.

Of course, metrics is a controversial subject.

"To embrace a new world, you need more knowledge," Vechey argued, saying PopCap doesn't design by metrics, but requires them to make better products.

Taking stock

Yet Vechey still labels PopCap as being conservative by nature.

"You don't have to go fast. You can test things out. You need to focus on a few things and do them well," he said, pointing to company's decision to focus on Facebook rather than MySpace when it was first looking into the social space.

"We're still learning, and we'll always be learning," Vechey explained, going on to talk about PopCap's acquisition by EA.

"For us, it was about our legacy, not about the money. It's how we make the best PopCap for the next 10 - 15 years."
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.