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Denki: Marketing behind Quarrel publisher struggle

MD says acquisition teams were superseded by finance and marketing

Scottish developer Denki believes that the Xbox Live release of its popular iOS word game Quarrel was delayed for years by the narrow thinking of publishers' marketing teams.

Development of Quarrel began four years ago, and the game has been complete for more than two years, yet it was only released on Xbox Live yesterday.

Colin Anderson, Denki's managing director, claims that, during that two year period, Quarrel was rejected by, "almost every games publisher in the world."

"And not because their game acquisition teams didn't recommend signing it you understand, oh no. Almost without exception every acquisition team we showed it to thought it was a certifiable, bankable hit - just as we did," Anderson wrote in a blog post.

"The problems only started once they'd passed Quarrel up the decision tree to their finance and marketing teams - the bit more commonly known as 'The Industry'."

Denki was given numerous reasons for the rejections, but Anderson states that the most common was that, "Gamers don't buy word games."

"So who's right then: Gamers like myself? Or the Games Industry?" he continues. "One of us is definitely wrong... My money is (quite literally) on The Games Industry being wrong."

The failure to find a publisher for Quarrel caused Denki to struggle, leading to "major restructuring" in April 2010 during which many people lost their jobs.

"The obvious first question is 'Why has this happened?'" Anderson said at the time. "The answer, unfortunately, is rather less obvious."

"The main reason is that Denki has been running on an old business model. We rely on 'the industry' for funding, which wouldn't be so bad, except we're making games for people who love games - which isn't necessarily 'the industry', unfortunately."

Denki was founded in 2000 by former employees of DMA Design with the intention of developing games for the growing casual audience. However, the company moved towards making products for digital interactive television in 2002.

"We've slowly been remembering why we got out of the traditional games industry for so long and escaped to Interactive Television in the first place: this industry doesn't value good games," Anderson said in April 2010.

"Players do, but the games industry doesn't. Instead it values low risk games - not even 'calculated' risk games, just low risk. And that leads to bogus sweeping generalisations such as 'Gamers don't play word games.'"

Denki's long-running struggle to find a publisher for Quarrel relates to comments made by Red 5 Studios' Mark Kern in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, published today.

In a discussion about the recently shelved SOPA and PIPA bills, Kern suggested that small studios are "tired" of relying on publishers for finance and distribution, with successful indies like Mojang and Riot Games raising important questions about how meaningful publishers' will be in the future.

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Matthew Handrahan

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Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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