Dozens of game journalists, bloggers, and industry types came together at an event in Seattle last night. Drinks flowed freely, hors d'oeuvres were devoured, and sexy hostesses served guests as scantily clad performers flipped and spun from the ceiling on special apparatuses hung from each side of the stage. This scene would be fairly typical for the launch of a high-profile console title, but this level of fanfare has to be the first of its type for a casual game.
Casual or not, PopCap's Bejeweled franchise is no slouch, even when compared to the big console titles. The gem switching puzzle game has sold 25 million copies across all platforms. PopCap figures that over 6 billion leisure time hours have been spent on this title since 2000, and they've calculated that a Bejeweled game is sold every 10 seconds.
PopCap has been working these past four years to take this puzzle favorite and make it even bigger and better, and now it's finally here: Bejeweled Twist.
PopCap CEO David Roberts took the stage to introduce the new title. Roberts said that the company gave careful consideration to mentioning the current U.S. economic slump in his presentation, but they eventually decided to go with it. The first Bejeweled was announced in July of 2000, right in the middle of the big dot-com bubble burst, so this recent example of "poor timing" was par for the course. He added that the "need for fun in our lives will never be greater" than in the next couple of years.
He invited audience member Phil Spencer on stage, whom you might know as Microsoft Game Studios' General Manager. He briefly spoke about the relationship between Microsoft and PopCap, and how it affects each of their businesses. He noted that the $3 billion casual game market has come a long way since its beginnings to have a launch of this size. Spencer points out that it was Microsoft that came up with the name "Bejeweled," suggesting it instead of PopCap's original name for the game, "Diamond Mine."
Finally, the original creators of Diamond Mine (John Veche, Brian Fiete, and Jason Kapalka) took the stage to unveil Bejeweled Twist. Gems are no longer switched. Mousing controls a ring that encompases four gems. With a click, the four gems within this ring are rotated clockwise once. They joked that this game play mechanic makes Bejeweled Twist a "real game," responding to a popular cirticism of the original title.
In the same instant that it was unveiled, it was released online at PopCap.com, and is now available for $19.99. It will be available on other online outlets and and in retail stores on November 18th.
Look for our hands-on impressions soon.