PopCap lures Xbox exec

Greg Canessa joins casual gamemaker as vice president, video game platforms; goal is to move PopCap titles to consoles, handheld platforms.

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Greg Canessa

Casual game developer PopCap Games is broadening its horizons and moving full force into the console and handheld marketplace. To facilitate the move, the Seattle-based company has hired Xbox Live Arcade executive Greg Canessa as its new vice president of video game platforms.

"The entrepreneurial nature of Greg's work at Microsoft, combined with his more than 15 years of industry experience, will be instrumental to our ongoing platform expansion strategy," Dennis Ryan, PopCap's executive vice president of worldwide business development said in a statement.

Canessa was general manager of Xbox Live Arcade and is a seven-year veteran of the game divisions at Microsoft. Canessa also had stints at Vivendi Games and Apple.

While PopCap's biggest successes have been on the PC, PopCap titles have been represented on Xbox Live since 2004, and they include Heavy Weapon, Bejeweled 2, and Zuma. Canessa's hire is designed to accelerate the migration of PopCap games to the Xbox 360 and other platforms.

PopCap, founded in 2000, made its reputation on the popular casual game, Bejeweled. The company says the game has sold more than 10 million units since its launch.

GameSpot spoke with Canessa to find out what it took to get him to PopCap.

GameSpot: You had tremendous success with XBL Arcade. Why leave with so much upside yet to be tapped?

Greg Canessa: Xbox Live Arcade has been an amazing ride and is now a permanent, lasting success in the video game marketplace. There is a tremendous amount of upside with the business model, and developers are now beginning to hit their stride from a creative and production standpoint. The team is amazing. The business model has even been validated by our competitors. And frankly, the opportunity Microsoft provided me--the ability to craft a vision, define a market, incubate a business, and run it at a large company--has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one for which I will always be grateful.

That being said, XBLA is now established and the business is out of its infancy. While I love Microsoft and Xbox 360, I'm an entrepreneur at heart and I love creating and defining new businesses. I'm also a huge gamer, and getting back into the game development space is important to me. And finally, I miss the nimbleness and agility that a small company can offer.

GS: Why PopCap?

GC: Of all the companies out there, PopCap gets it like no other when it comes to making awesome, broad-appeal games. They are the recognized leader in the casual games space, they truly understand how to build great content and define lasting franchises, and yet they are nimble and agile as a small company can be.

GS: Microsoft already works with PopCap.

GC: They have been close partners and friends for many years, and I deeply respect what they have done in the casual games space, both on the PC and on Xbox Live Arcade. So the opportunity to join their leadership team and help them leverage their amazing games and franchises on different platforms, including XBLA, handhelds, and other devices, frankly is an opportunity that I could not pass up. Honestly, I think we are looking at what could be the next Blizzard or EA in the game industry with PopCap, and I want to be a part of that.

GS: What are your primary goals at PopCap? Specifically, where does the PopCap model need bolstering?

GC: My primary role at PopCap will be to manage their video game platforms business. It's a broad scope role which includes vision, strategy, execution, marketing, and other roles.

What PopCap has always done superwell is make awesome broad-appeal games. These games have done extremely well on the PC as downloads and recently on retail shelves, and PopCap has just scratched the surface of what's possible on platforms like Xbox Live Arcade, on iPod, and so on.

One of the things that Xbox Live Arcade has taught me is how huge the market is for broad-appeal games on video game consoles, particularly among core gamers. If you broaden that out to include handhelds like Nintendo DS, the market is massive--just look at the top-selling games on that platform, and most of them could be classified as broad-appeal titles. And the market is growing as more people buy these devices, gaming becomes more accepted culturally, and more people play games on the various devices they carry with them every day.

GS: So, specifically, what will you be doing?

GC: My group will take PopCap's games and franchises--and possibly new ones we may define or publish in the future--and customize them for various consoles, handhelds and devices. Having just witnessed the success of the Xbox Live Arcade business, I am more convinced than ever that there is a huge financial and strategic opportunity here for a company with amazing IP and games like PopCap to become leading content providers on these platforms. That's what I'm going to help them grow and define--and have an absolute blast doing, I might add.

Discussion

40 comments
nobeaner
nobeaner

As if I didn't have enough time to play the games I currently own...

anarchicgoth
anarchicgoth

As long as he makes good games- Congrats!

xatman911
xatman911

PopCap is addictive. A bit like Sega games in 90s. They were fun.

anamnawshad
anamnawshad

Greg Canessa can help make XBLA even better from outside MS.... Good Luck!

makemeweak
makemeweak

Maybe now we'll see even more PopCap games on XBLA.

-HCMF-
-HCMF-

damn time wasting adictive mnbnbmbnmnbmb

ThrillhouseLive
ThrillhouseLive

i wasted a lot of time playing those addictive games. Keep em' coming for Live Arcade!

chongon
chongon

BookWorm Adventures!!!! Boss Battle

okassar
okassar

Pop isn't too bad and it has made some instant classics,but we are definitely not looking at something as big as Blizzard or EA.

vaejas
vaejas

That Bookworm Adventures is da shyte. Sure to be a hit on XBLA. ;)

jc_tkml
jc_tkml

sony should make a wii/ms points like money system for their psp and ps3 so we can just buy games online through our psp or ps3

datniccah187
datniccah187

PopCap what is PopCap? I've never heard of them. They make XBL games?

druggyjoe3000
druggyjoe3000

i have been a pop cap fan for along time and i would like to make a request please more heavy weapon content and feed frenzy 2

Buck_Hotep
Buck_Hotep

This new probably will mean PopCap will end up being bought out by Microsoft down the line. Always seem to work that way.

Chief_Kuuni
Chief_Kuuni

hmm, well could help them out alot, sure gives them a boost that's for sure

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

This could seriously help them or severely hurt them.

Supersonic2000
Supersonic2000

I want to see Big Money and Mummy Maze on XBLA. Please!

007ybse04
007ybse04

i want seven seas for Xbox live arcade!! Hear me PopCap!!

xeidog69
xeidog69

they better stay away from wii, lol j/k actually those games would fit nicely onj wii but I wanna see some platformers, rpg and other more advanced genre games, so far wii is more or less good old school gaming and party gaming which is almost a dissapointment..

Re_ensurer
Re_ensurer

I've been seeing lots of PopCap games on Steam.

merek16_basic
merek16_basic

[quote]dryden555 MS takes a cut for everything sold on Live: some developers cannot afford the cut that MS wants. That's gonna keep smaller developers away from Live.[/quote] keep developers away from LIVE? every developer wants a game on LIVE! what are you talking about?

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

--dryden555 -- "developers cannot afford the cut that MS wants" ~~~~~ Dude...what in the world are you talking about...sure MS takes a cut, but that hardly means developers cannot afford it. That's like saying I cannot afford to develop a title because I cannot afford a publisher's share. Plus now MS offers a piece of that back with their advertising incentives Combine that with XNA ... my bet is 12-months from now we'll see the first 100,000 copy seller of who-knows-what on XBLA from some basement code-jockey.

ShadoweaverCode
ShadoweaverCode

Heavy Weapon looks alright, but if we get a slew of bejeweled and mahjongs its going to suck. And unfortunately, I do believe that's what Mr. Canessa means when he says broad-appeal.

dryden555
dryden555

MS takes a cut for everything sold on Live: some developers cannot afford the cut that MS wants. That's gonna keep smaller developers away from Live.

Hoopin4thelove
Hoopin4thelove

XBLA is fracking awsome, i have only one problem i think we need more new games made in the same mold as the old snes games such as (turtles in time, sunset riders, etc.) also we need classic arcade titles such as the simpsons, x-men, ninja turtles arcade, street fighter chanmpionchip edition....... i mean the popcap games have fooled me into thinking they were worth 5$ before but never again. alot of the original games are like but lack the overall feel of old snes,nes games use to feel like remeber final fight ? i will pay 10-15$ for those "real arcade titles" that i metioned above. i mean even revised versions would be great like activision taking there xmen linsence and using it to make a new 2d side scroller like the arcade version but with new mutants updated story and possibly longer. BUT MAD PROPS TO "CASTLE CRASHERS" that game has the right idea. we need more captain america and the avengers and less "rootbeertapper" i mean that game flat out frackin sucks. 1 more thing we need these to comeout alot quicker and also we need better titles in a row not ms pac man, lumines updates, them packs, and then rootbeer tapper.........that totally blows especially when you have no releases or good ones for that matter lined up. what that said i still love the ideas and plans ms are making and taking entertainment to the next level and beyond.

Thorpe89
Thorpe89

Hopefully, PopCap made a good decision.

piecake
piecake

vc is good yes as a person who just both the wii and now has both vc and xbla the wii vc lasks alot ie online play but it has a good ragne of games as does xbla but overall the xbla in my oppinion is better!

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

I don't really understand where all this hate for XBLA is coming from. I'll agree that their release schedule is frustrating... I'd like to see the game-a-week thing that we all figured would be happening start up again myself. But there are some quality releases there and more on the way. The thing hasn't been perfect, but to say it hasn't been a success is foolish.

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

--tk1080 -- It's one thing to spend 8 seconds dumping back catalog titles onto a system, but it's quite another to have people make the things. That's why I also mentioned MS and Nintendo working together would be the best of both worlds...MS has the infrastructure, Nitty has the history. Not that it's ever likely to happen.

ocdog45
ocdog45

XBLA is getting lame latley. i use to get a lot of there games, now i just trying to calm down on it.

qiwihead
qiwihead

I've also been a bit disappointed with XBLA, but it looks like it might be improving in the coming months. They need to move away from the arcade ports--which have a limited and mostly nostalgic appeal--and toward games like Roboblitz, Armored Assault, and Cloning Clyde. As for Wii's VC, I don't have a Wii yet, but from what I've read of their catalog, they're all ports of old Nintendo and Genesis games. This is a different strategy than XBLA's, where the emphasis will increasingly be on new casual games instead of ports of old ones. I don't see that you can really compare the two services.

tk1080
tk1080

man, i dont know what the hell this guys on about, XBLA sux; the Wiis VC is the way forward!

viberooni
viberooni

Xbox Live Arcade has been a ghost town and a failure in my eyes as of late, and it bothers me how much he pats himself on the back about the service in this interview. It's still a great idea and will hopefully improve in the future, but the release schedule is beyond frustrating and whenever a title decides to show up it's usually underwhelming or overpriced. One worthwhile purchase per season is not a job well done. Maybe if Greg had succeeded in delivering more titles that get people excited about Xbox Live Arcade instead of easy to acquire, casual junk like Feeding Frenzy or Bejeweled from PopCap he would have a point. He didn't and the service has been wasting away, becoming increasingly irrelevant with each passing week. Good riddance.

lokash
lokash

I hope it works well, I have a hard time getting onto the 360 cause my wife loves bejewelled

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

Hmmm...sounds like even more XBLA goodness and other things is coming our way. I wish Nintendo had more of a "online" plan...imagine if MS and Nitty teamed up and combined XBL across both their systems...now that would be news.