Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers

General | 90 puntastic comments

It’s with a heavy heart that I have to announce a major restructuring of Denki that will inevitably involve losing many of our supremely talented colleagues – not to mention friends – from the team.

After ten years in business and despite weathering some truly awful periods in the industry during those years, it’s the first time we’ve been forced to take such extreme measures.  So it’s probably a good indication of just how tough the market conditions are becoming for mid-size developers at the moment.

My advice?  If you’re an Independent Developer, and you’re not selling games directly to customers yet, start worrying, because this industry is changing beyond all recognition.

The obvious first question is “Why has this happened?” – 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.

As a result we haven’t been able to find the right publishing partner for Quarrel.  Despite the game being finished, super polished, and everyone who plays it having great fun with it, 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.  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”.

We’ve heard that from a lot of people, but never from the gamers who have actually played Quarrel and now can’t wait to add it to their collections when it launches.  We’ve also realised that if we continue to spend time looking for a publishing partner who believes us, then instead of releasing the game this year we’ll almost certainly end up running out of cash.

We’ve stuck with this strategy as long as we possibly could.  We’ve tried to play by the rules and take Quarrel through the industry the old-fashioned way, because we realise how important good marketing support, etc., is – but you know what?  It just isn’t worth the hassle any more.  Being developers “of a certain age” we cut our teeth in the industry at a time when you listened to Publisher’s opinions.  But those days are clearly behind us now – there are just so many alternative ways of getting though to people who love games, and we’d rather save our energies for people who love games, play games and buy games than waste it trying to convince the industry of their worth (not that those groups are always entirely mutually exclusive of course!).

All the people who are doing things we like, admire and aspire to in games at the moment are bypassing the established industry and going straight to their audience, and now we understand why.  It’s because the road to Innovation and Progress does not pass anywhere close to the established industry it seems (okay, with the odd exception, but you know what I mean).

We’ve realised we’re “not normal” and don’t make games that fit neatly in to income forecast spreadsheets.  And we’re okay with that.  Mostly.  We also know we will always find it a challenge to get support for our games within “the industry”, and we’ve reluctantly accepted it’s now time to stop trying – despite the tremendous pain it’s going to cause us.

From this point on we’re going straight to the people who play games and value games, focusing on platforms that don’t have arbitrary gate-keepers who periodically change the requirement goal-posts halfway through development.  And we’ll wait until we have absolutely conclusive proof of the value of our games before we go anywhere near the industry.  After all, I think everyone at Denki would be quite willing to accept that “Gamers don’t play word games” if it was gamers telling us that, but when it’s the industry…  well, you might be right, but we’d like to hear it directly from gamers themselves thanks because the ones we’ve spoken with say something quite different.

So today we’ve taken the extremely difficult decision of restructuring and scaling back the business.  It’s hoped this will give Denki the opportunity to build itself back up with a different business model as a publisher of an entirely new category of game – not Casual Games; or Hardcore Games; but Denki Games.

It’s taken ten years to put the current, most awesome line-up of the Denki team together, and there’s not a single person here that doesn’t bring something truly special to the group.  We’ll miss every one of them that has to leave us.  Quarrel is all the better for their input, but cashflow forecasts don’t lie.  We couldn’t risk becoming another “typical games developer” where the first anyone knows about the challenges facing the business is when the staff suddenly don’t get paid and/or can’t get in to the building.  That’s just Totally Not Denki.

So, please bear with us during this difficult time.  I’ve only just announced this internally to the team and we’re all still coming to terms with it.  It’s going to be some time before we get through the consultation process and have things resolved, ready to move forwards again.  So we’ll be going incommunicado for a bit.  Please don’t think we’re being rude if we’re uncommunicative, it’s just that we’ve got a lot to deal with internally right now.

We’ll start updating/blogging/tweeting/whatevering again just as soon as we have things sorted out, but it’s going to be a sad time for us all over the next while.  Please spare a thought for the whole team at Denki right now.  We could all do with your support at the moment more than ever.

One thing doesn’t change though: Denki will be releasing Quarrel this year – supposing we have to bring the board game version round each of your houses one-by-one.

Thanks,

Colin.

PS: And if any companies out there are looking for top quality people to bolster their teams please get in touch with jobs@denki.co.uk to let us know about any opportunities.

90 puntastic comments

[...] Black Monday At Denki Towers [...]

[...] full blog can be seen here. It also calls for any companies with openings to get in touch by emailing them at [...]

Nutts says:

Gutted, as I’m sure you all are – all the best of British, to those still there and those departed. Great memories of working with you all, I hope we can do so again sometime. Cheers, Andy

Brian McNicoll says:

Just read this this morning – totally shocked, and really puts into perspective just how much of a nightmare the industry is at the moment. After kindly letting me in to play Quarrel at your offices, I went away thinking that this game could go down as a real classic, a monopoly or cluedo for the modern age.
Also seen all of the kids in Edinburgh playing it at the festival event who couldn’t put it down.

We are all completely gutted for you all as I know it would have been the last thing Denki would have wanted to do, and to make such a bold and honest statement must have taken a lot of guts. Denki has always been a great inspiration to the other games companies in Dundee, and has always been an amazing help for us at Dynamo any time we have needed advice.

I am sure you will all battle through this tough time and get Quarrel and many more Denki games to the top of the charts.

Brian

Jon Attfield says:

Really sorry to hear that Colin, publishers have always sucked when it comes to taking a chance on innovative new gameplay. I’m sure you’ll find a route through, and in years to come this will look like a small step in to a new world of independance.

Tardie says:

This is really sad news. I hope you will find your way again.

Tardie
x

[...] full blog can be seen here. It also calls for any companies with openings to get in touch by emailing them at [...]

[...] ever seen in the games business.”Closed for business: Industry closures / layoffs Scotland’s Denki games suffered through a Black (Easter) Monday, with a major restructuring and some hefty layoffs.Downloadable Content: Fix it later MW2 Stimulus [...]

[...] sad news from Denki yesterday, in that they’re laying off some of their team. We’ve met Denki a couple of times, and they’re definitely the good guys; we’re [...]

[...] for its “finished, super polished” XBLA word game, Quarrel, developer Denki has announced layoffs of much of its staff. The “major restructuring” — Develop claims the [...]

[...] Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers « Denki "…we haven’t been able to find the right publishing partner for Quarrel.  Despite the game being finished, super polished, and everyone who plays it having great fun with it, 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.  Players do, but the games industry doesn’t.  Instead it values low risk games – not even “calculated” risk games, just low risk." Such a shame; Quarrel has been looking great, and Denki know their games; it's absurd that this is the outcome facing Denki in 2010. (tags: denki games redundancy industry businessmodels absurd sad ) [...]

[...] the Denki website, under the header, Black Easter Monday at Denki Towers, the company’s MD, Colin Anderson, has written a impassioned blog post, criticising [...]

Colin,

so sorry to hear this. Have admired you and your extremely talented team from afar for many years. But you are making the right decision. The old models don’t work and frankly haven’t for years. Get out and get ahead.

If there is anything I can do to help here in the US, let me know.

K

Jeff Murray says:

That must have been a very tough post to write and I appreciate the honestly. It’s sad to see such amazing talent not getting the funding when there are total shithouses churning out crap and somehow getting the backing from the publishers. I sincerely hope things turn around for all of you guys in the near future. All the best.

Herve Piton says:

Sorry to hear this. I’ve been of fan of Denki way back to Denki Blocks and the style and freshness emanating from your games have always been a big source of inspiration for me.

Quarrel looks like a really fun game, it’s disheartening to read that no publisher was willing to give it a chance.

Good luck too all involved!

Paul May says:

This totally sucks; I was really looking forward to playing Quarrel and it is a sad comment on the state of the games industry that it hasn’t met with broad support. I hope you manage to get it out into the wild somehow, and soon.

So sorry to hear this very sad news. The more i’ve heard about Denki and Quarrel over the past few months the more i’ve loved your approach and your company. Good things come to good projects and good teams – really looking forwards to playing and buying Quarrel – whether that’s on a board game or not.

Best of luck to Denki, Quarrel, and the Denki staff.

euan says:

Colin

:-(((((((((((((

I am so so sorry and feel totally fucking shite now….I have at least 3 people I was going to buy it for as a present.

…actually we are all feeling shite here…as we would not be still here if it wasn’t for you and the Denki team …we have a little bit of Denki blood keeping us alive.

all the best

Euan

Brian says:

Thank you for all the kind words and comments. Those of us who are leaving will be keeping an eye on the blog, Facebook and the company, so do let us know what you’re thinking…

Badger says:

Geezaz… I’m still pickin’ up my n**s from the floor…

This world needs a real shakedown quite fast…

[...] “It’s with a heavy heart that I have to announce a major restructuring of Denki that will inevitably involve losing many of our supremely talented colleagues – not to mention friends – from the team,” MD Colin Anderson wrote in an impassioned blog post. [...]

Gordie Ross says:

Sickening to hear guys…
So sorry guys, I feel your pain I really do.

Denki Games to me is a great “philosophy”.

Gordos101 says:

Quarrel looks like a good game, you are obviously talented guys so sad to hear its come to this.

How about a release for the i-pad in the apps store, definately the type of game i would buy? An then once it’s successful you can get your team back to make quarrel 2!

Lucky says:

Denki is part of Abertay Uni but developers team are their own work for new games but look at the problems with worldwide that already hit by downturn so people seem cant afford to buy some games due to cost that may happen with publishers that cannot afford to buy – see the cheaper one Big Fish Games which is cheaper and quite a lots of games that only via download – it goes very well, sorry for Denki team that will go out of jobs and go back for sign up benefit. It will happen to other developers such as Realtime World or others in the future.

Mark Green says:

Truly sorry to here about this.
Best of luck.

[...] Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers >> DenkiRedundancies beckon at the games maker. “My advice? If you’re an Independent Developer, and you’re not selling games directly to customers yet, start worrying, because this industry is changing beyond all recognition.” [...]

[...] Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers >> DenkiRedundancies beckon at the games maker. “My advice? If you’re an Independent Developer, and you’re not selling games directly to customers yet, start worrying, because this industry is changing beyond all recognition.” [...]

TheJuggler says:

It’s always a sad day when this sort of announcement is made at any company. Denki is trying to do something different, unique, and make a truly great game. As we are all seeing, ‘the industry’ just doesn’t get it, and isn’t willing to take the risk.

Even the big boys like Valve can only take a chance by bundling something new with a known seller (yes, we all remember how special Portal was). It’s a sad day when ‘the industry’ is so closed minded that it will no longer take a punt on something because it’s not generic, formulaic and been done to death before!

I wish all at Denki the very best through these difficult times. Whether you are still with Denki, or sadly no longer I think it is fair to say you have been part of something special, and when Quarrel finally releases, you’ll be able to hold your heads up knowing that you have been part of it.

Good luck …. I’ll be watching with my fingers crossed for you all.

[...] Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers >> DenkiRedundancies beckon at the games maker. “My advice? If you’re an Independent Developer, and you’re not selling games directly to customers yet, start worrying, because this industry is changing beyond all recognition.” [...]

M.E says:

While I can see the “Issue” here, that the publishers are being removed from the equation and many small companies will find it hard to make do with an idea and no money.

However – I also see the solution here – Go mobile.
the iPhone / iPad currently provides every decent indie group a chance to make a name for themselves.

I also believe a Word Game is more suited for pick-up & play rather than the X360 platform..

I urge you to join the legion of indies on Apples platform, as it’s a cheap solution to a big problem that doesn’t need to be an issue.
Further I’ve so far found the indie community on Apples platform to be caring, giving and loving.
You’re welcome to join us, we greet you with open arms!

So sorry to hear this (a bit late in the day after an Easter break) and if there’s anything I can do to help rehouse some of your talented guys I’ll do it. I’ll put the word out on my network and make connections where possible.

In the long-run as someone coming from outside the gaming industry the publishing model was a troublesome one – so few people making all the decisions. Going it with the fans is hardly going it alone, and I wish you all the best. It does mean you’re leaner, but I’m sure Denki will do its best to remain as un-mean as possible :-)

Best of luck, and my wishes to those creating their own shops or looking around. If I weren’t a startup three months in myself I’d be the first to be snapping up your talented team.

[...] Denki has announced a major restructuring to reduce the company to a skeleton team. Blaming “an old business model”, Denki bemoans the fact that the industry doesn’t “value good games… instead it values low risk games.” [...]

[...] full blog can be seen here. It also calls for any companies with openings to get in touch by emailing them at [...]

[...] Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers >> DenkiRedundancies beckon at the games maker. “My advice? If you’re an Independent Developer, and you’re not selling games directly to customers yet, start worrying, because this industry is changing beyond all recognition.” [...]

[...] Denki to make Quarrel happen. After having spend more then a year developing Quarrel prior the Black Easter Monday back in 2010 I am thrilled to be back at it and help out to get it [...]

[...] it was the game that almost killed Scottish studio Denki, it’s good to hear that Quarrel is finally going to be [...]

[...] size than its lack of Flash support, and there's the fact a lot of sites will be ready on day one."Black Easter Monday At Denki Towers >> DenkiRedundancies beckon at the games maker. "My advice? If you're an Independent Developer, and you're [...]

[...] streamines its operations down to a single development team.On the Denki website, under the header, Black Easter Monday at Denki Towers, the company's MD, Colin Anderson, has written a impassioned blog post, criticising mainstream [...]

[...] getting this game launched wasn’t exactly a smooth ride for us.  To give you some idea of how not smooth let’s just say it was rejected by almost every games publisher in the world.  Sometimes [...]

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