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Belltown Messenger #81 - July 2010 - "Belltown Life"

ELAINE BONOW visits a thriving neighborhood company
Popping Caps in Belltown

Matt Holmberg is a senior artist at PopCap Games, which has been in Belltown since 2000. We sit down for
a chat at the Two Bells one afternoon.

Elaine: How did PopCap get started?
Matt: It started off rather small, only a few guys. Oddly enough the name of the company was Sexy Action Cool and their idea was make some Internet puzzle games. Bejeweled was the big winner for us. It was new and unique because the whole idea was downloading a game for free for x amount of time and having the option of buying it once you’ve played it for a while. Twenty dollars, play for free for an hour, and then buy it. A lot of people were skeptical of that, I know I was, but it worked like a charm. Bejeweled was the big blast off point.

Elaine: How did Pop Cap get to be a Belltown institution?
Matt: I don’t know how they chose that building. A lot of us live in this area. When I first got there we had a quarter of the 8th floor with 20 people working there. Between 2005-20007 we had a big push and now there are 200 people who work in about a quarter of that building.

With so many of us, all of a sudden people starting to say, “Oh there’s the Pop Cap guys, there’s the Pop Cap guys,“
especially when we would show up here at the Two Bells and other restaurants here
in Belltown. We were a noticeable group.

Elaine: Are there other gaming companies in Belltown?
Matt: There’s Big Fish Games and Game House. We would walk into the Hurricane in our Pop Cap shirts on and see a bunch of people with Big Fish shirts coming out, on or sit next to some one talking about saving PNG’s or screen resolutions, wait I know that conversation.

There isn’t any animosity between companies. The industry is doing really well.

The big thing about Casual Games is that the whole concept is reaching out to people who never played games. What that does is opens up your audience. My company has grown tremendously in the last four years.

Elaine: I did download Plants vs. Zombies. That is a great game.
Matt: You don’t have to make a game about a spaceship blowing something up. You can make a game about a flower fighting a zombie. That was a really big hit for us. We never put blood and gore or cussing and nudity. We try to keep it E for everyone, accessible. We try to make a game that is valuable for a long period of time. At twenty dollars you can spend a couple of months playing for a couple of hours a day. That’s really cheap entertainment.

Elaine: Is the company staying in Belltown?
Matt: Everyone really likes working in Belltown. It’s a funky part of town. We celebrate a lot. For awards and releases we have a party. That’s where we tie into the community. There are places we frequent in mass. This place, the Two Bells is one. We call it Pop Cap South. We all hang out here and come down here and eat a lot of lunches. The new Indian restaurant Madhu right around the corner next to Rob Roy, we were going to get something catered so we called that guy. And if it is someone’s birthday we call Yellow Leaf Cupcakes and order 400 cupcakes. It sure is a boost for the community. The great thing about Pop Cap is they treat us like absolute kings.

Elaine: Do you think being gamers innovators will be a viable occupation in the future?
Matt: It is vastly popular career choice among the youth.  There was a poll taken of high school kids and more wanted to work in video games than be pro athletes. So many people grow up playing video games and being an artist is such fun to do.  I mean you wake up on Monday morning and have to go to work and draw a pig with a backpack on. That’s my job that’s my work. It’s really not that hard to get into. It beats a real job.


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