“Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time” is becoming a sort of self-referential joke at this point. The game was originally supposed to launched in spring of 2013, however, when that deadline was passed up it was pushed back to July 18th. Then it was pushed even further back to sometime at the end of the summer. The headlines are practically writing themselves at this point. “It’s About Time for Plants Vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time.” Mark my words, someone somewhere out there is going to use that headline. If not, then I will because it’s pure brilliance.
So what gives? Why has the game been pushed back so often? PopCap is simply trying to ensure that their customers receive the best possible user experience they can deliver. At least that’s what senior producer Allen Murray told Polygon.
“If we had more players than we could account for, some of the systems might fall over. We want to be double confident, so we’re testing it in a smaller region. This allows us to have a more controlled testing player base and determine how to keep the game healthy, then map that to the expected growth when we launch worldwide.”
“Plants vs Zombies 2” is experimenting with a lot of features that are new to the franchise. Since the game is operating on a free-to-play model, PopCap games needs to make extra sure that certain features don’t fail on the customers at critical moments. In the sequel, players will be able to save their progress to a cloud system if they’re connected to the internet and share that data with other accounts on multiple devices, allowing the player to take their saved game with them anywhere.
To ensure that they have a reasonably sized market to test the game in, PopCap has decided to do a soft release in Australia and New Zealand. According to Allen Murray, the sequel should be available in those regions sometime today.
Since the two countries are essentially serving as a testing ground for the game, they can expect to see some fluctuations as the game progresses. Tweaks could be made to the servers and gameplay, based on how PopCap sees players reacting to the game. Another aspect that’ll be under close scrutiny is the in-app store. Prices and availability of items could be adjusted to help ensure that players of all experience levels have access to what they need to complete the game.
“Our philosophy is to not be heavy-handed and very soft in our approach,” Murray said. “Anyone with enough time and skill can unlock all content. But we have a unique challenge in that the game is widely loved — by kids and grandparents, casual players and hardcore players, and everyone in between. It’s a challenge to design something that will work for all audiences.”
Among some of the purchasable items that will be included in the game are plants and coin packs to purchase power-ups and upgrades. Levels will be added to the game on a monthly basis.
Personally, I would have to say that if they wanted to ensure that everyone had equal access to the game, they shouldn’t have made it free-to-play and should’ve released the game at a flat rate. However, there’ no denying that the FTP model is extremely profitable right now and from a business stance, it makes a whole lot of sense for PopCap games to pursue this market. Although it certainly would’ve saved them a lot of time, effort, and headaches to go with a straight release of a full game.
So if you’re in Australia or New Zealand, give the game a try and let us know how you like it.