Without all the backstory, it was a bit of a surprise when experienced designer and artist, American McGee, fled the verdant hills of the West to personally set up a studio in Shanghai for making games. It was a further shock when Spicy Horse released games that seemed more for Western audiences, such as the episodic Grimm. Since then, they've been getting plenty of coverage for their upcoming release of >Alice: Madness Returns, which will be hitting our shores next month as a sequel to the game that put McGee on the map.
Now it seems Spicy Horse has their next few projects lined up, and it's partially thanks to investors and the partnership of PopCap. The Shanghai studio has just signed a deal and acquired $3 million in funding for multiple games, the first of which is a 3D version of one of PopCap's casual gaming properties.
The switchover has always been part of McGee's plan: "I wanted to get away from console game production and retail, disc-based sales." He also perceives a new generation of casual-market games with shiny 3D graphics, and wants to be part of that grand shift.
This announcement also comes with some careful wording--despite that the 55-strong studio is dropping the idea of large game releases, American McGee calls his Alice sequel "a beautiful distraction" from their new model. After all, it's great to look to the future, but don't turn your back on a game that's not out yet!
Spicy Horse will be developing these "freemium" games for a while yet, if their funding is any indication, but don't expect to see the results immediately. These titles will be releasing in Asia first, since the studio is working with PopCap Shanghai, who's seen significant success with multiplayer versions of titles like Bejeweled within a Korea-focused framework called "PopCap World."
We'll do our best to stay updated on what McGee's up to beyond Alice: Madness Returns! In the meantime, keep hoping for an epic crossover if PopCap manages to make Spicy Unpleasant Horse!