Plants vss Zombies 2 (teaser 001)

Good news this afternoon for those looking forward to the highly anticipated Plants vs. Zombie sequel. Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time has started hitting App Stores around the world, despite EA’s warning that the game wouldn’t make its July 18th deadline.

Don’t get too excited though. Apparently, today’s release is just a limited soft launch to help the developers fine-tune the game’s new free-to-play experience. For now, only folks in Australia and New Zealand (or with iTunes accounts in either country) can download it…

From the App Store description:

“The zombies are coming… back. It’s about time! The sequel to the hit action-strategy adventure with over 30 Game of the Year awards is here. Join Crazy Dave on a crazy adventure where you’ll meet, greet and defeat legions of zombies from the dawn of time to the end of days. Amass an army of powerful new plants, super charge them with Plant Food and power up your defenses with amazing new ways to protect your brain.”

The game has been virtually rebuilt from the ground up—there’s new plant food and power-ups, new levels and new zombies. It also takes advantage of several new technologies, like cloud saving, which lets you save your progress across multiple devices when online.

Here’s PvZ senior producer Allen Murray with more on the game and today’s soft launch (via Polygon):

“With Plants vs. Zombies 2 we’re taking advantage of a lot of newer technologies,” Murray said. “If you’re connected to the internet, you can save your progress and share accounts across multiple devices — and we need to make sure those systems, along with our ability to stream that content to players, works.

PopCap also plans to test in-app store capabilities and pricing models; players participating in the soft launch will see price fluctuations. We’ll monitor player purchasing behavior in order to stabilize and tweak the game’s final pricing model.”

Perhaps the biggest change in the PvZ sequel is that it is now a ‘freemium’ title, meaning it’s free to play but there is a bevy of in-app purchases available. Murray says the game isn’t heavy handed in that approach, though, as everything can be unlocked through gameplay.

Folks in New Zealand and Australia can download the app immediately from the App Store for free, but players in the US and elsewhere will need to wait until later this month. It’s still not known if the game will be released on July 18, as originally planned, or later.