"So what exactly will you be doing for PopCap? GC: I will help proliferate their titles on other consoles. It’s a broad in scope role. It encompasses everything from vision and strategy to execution and marketing. It will all be part of my group and charter. Business development will be part of that as well. It will be about taking the stable of franchises and games out of PopCap's studio and adapting, customizing it for different platforms -- adding multiplayer, new play modes, HD, customizing the user interface and display for Zune, ipod, Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP. And I'll get into interesting things like custom game development for other consoles, and publishing with partners beyond the studio. The next couple years will be spent just mining the PopCap catalog -- adapting it for a stylus or a Wiimote."
We've all heard the rumours about the Zune eventually becoming a gaming device of some sort - there's really not much choice given that's what the iPod has become - but what we have above is the first real piece of evidence that this is more than just hopeful speculation. The Zune has all the raw tools to become a great gaming device - a big, bright screen at 320 x 240 resolution, a d-pad (the iPod scroll wheel is second rate for games), and buttons that would work well for gaming (they're perfectly placed). So the question is, when will we see the first Zune game, and how will it work in the ecosystem of the games? Let's explore that topic a bit...
When I was at CES, I was shown a nice presentation about Xbox Live on Windows. They've developed an Xbox Live client that allows you to play Xbox Live games on the PC (Uno, Bejeweled, etc.) The experience is completely killer - you can join in games on your PC that your friends are playing on their Xbox, and with a wireless adaptor on the PC you can even use the Xbox headset and controller. I asked about how the licensing was going to work on this - would you have to re-purchase a game you already own? As in, if I buy Assault Heroes on the Xbox and I want to play it on my PC, would I have to pay for the game again? To me, that would make the service a much harder sell - I'm not going to pay for content twice. The Microsoft person I spoke to about this said they were still trying to figure that part out, but he hinted that the odds were good it wouldn't require re-purchasing. You pay for a game once and you can play it on your PC or Xbox, as long as you're logged into your Xbox Live account.
Now transfer that line of thinking to the Zune: you pay for Uno on your Xbox, or maybe your PC, and the Zune Marketplace would allow you to transfer the game onto your Zune. Combine the WiFi on the Zune with the ability to play against others online, and you have a portable gaming machine pretty much unmatched on the market today in terms of functionality and an ecosystem. You have to think that purchasing games, and content, right on the Zune wirelessly are also part of where the Zune team is going. Suddenly the Xbox Live points system doesn't seem so crazy does it? The Zune will plug into a larger ecosystem, and that's what will make it unique against other competing devices in the market. This is exciting news!