Gwertzman will manage a team of developers, artists, business development executives, and other staffers charged with bringing hit titles such as Bejeweled®, Chuzzle™, Peggle™, and Zuma™ to Asian audiences. The new Asia/Pacific office, which opened in Shanghai this month, will feature a development studio tasked with creating new games specifically for Asia/Pacific consumers. The new office also establishes PopCap as the first Western casual games developer to have a full-fledged operation in the region.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Gwertzman said. “The casual games space in Asia is totally different than in North America or Europe, but if we can get it right, it’s a tremendous opportunity. With more than 400 million Internet users, the wired population of Asia is bigger than that of either North America or Europe, and casual games are very popular throughout the region. We’ve had a modest ‘stealth’ presence in the area for two years now, but now we’re ready to open a fully-staffed office. We have enough confidence in our strategy to make a sizable investment, but we’re humble enough to realize that these are very different markets, and so we have designed our organization here first and foremost to be nimble and flexible.”
No other Western casual games provider has made much headway in Asia, mostly due to significant differences in the playing habits and expectations of Asian consumers, as well as the challenges inherent in translating games into multiple Asian languages and adapting them to local business models. PopCap has quietly established a business development staff in Korea and Singapore, and last year hired Giordano Bruno Contestabile, the former Asia Pacific Director for ARENAmobile, to become PopCap’s Senior Business Development Director for Asia/Pacific. In late 2006, PopCap formed a partnership with Square Enix, one of the largest and most successful video game companies in Japan. PopCap already has a broad network of distribution deals in place covering all of its channels, including mobile, PC online, and retail. Gwertzman has been spending half his time in Asia for nearly a year, and will relocate his family to Shanghai in the coming months.