Quarrel vs The Games Industry: Who’s Right?

General | 55 refreshing comments

Today is kind of a big deal for Denki as it’s the day Quarrel finally launches on Xbox! If you’d rather stop reading at this point and go grab it from Xbox LIVE for only 400MSP I won’t be the least bit offended.  No, really, go right ahead! :-)

Still with me?  Well, in that case you might be interested to know it’s more than four years since the initial “Eureka!” moment, and more than two years since the game was fully finished and ready to launch.  And, in case you haven’t already heard, 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 twice; occasionally three times.

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.  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“.

“This game is fundamentally broken – how can I possibly win with only 3 letters when my opponent has 8?”;  “We could never sell this because it’s English language only”; “It looks like a kids game, but it’s way too hard for kids” and everywhere (trust me – everywhere) in between.  We heard the same justifications for passing on it over and over again ad nauseam.

However, one signal came through clearer than any other among the general noise of reasons why Quarrel wasn’t for them, and that was this: “Gamers don’t buy word games”.

Really, I thought?  That’s odd, because I’m a gamer, and I’d definitely buy a word game.  And most of my friends and colleagues are gamers, and I know they’d buy a word game.  In fact almost everyone I know is a gamer; I’m sure most of them would buy a word game.  And even the many hundreds of people who played the game during its development said they’d buy a word game.  Providing it was good of course.  So are you absolutely certain gamers don’t buy word games?

Yes.  Yes they were.  Definitely.

So who’s right then: Gamers like myself? Or the Games Industry?  Well, Wednesday January 25th 2012 is “The Day Of Reckoning”.  It’s Gamers vs The Games Industry, and one of us is definitely wrong.

My money is (quite literally) on The Games Industry being wrong. I remain convinced that Gamers know a good game when they see one and will happily invest in it – even if does involve making words instead of headshots.  That certainly seems to be the case if the reaction to the iPhone version is anything to go by anyway, but maybe console gamers are different? What’s most exciting is that we don’t have to wonder or debate much longer because we’re actually going to know the answer soon enough.

What we’d really appreciate though is your support in proving “The Industry” wrong on this one, and there’s two ways you can help ensure victory for Gamers everywhere:

* First is obviously to buy a copy of the game (or four – it’s only 400MSP and supports up to 4 player online multiplayer, so why not gift some points to a few friends who are always kicking your arse at CoD and see how clever they are when it’s about words rather than guns?);

* Second is to tell everyone you can about the game.  Seriously – discovery remains the single biggest challenge facing original games these days by far.  I usually assume everyone else already knows about whatever great games I’m enjoying by the time I’ve discovered them, but it always surprises me how often that’s not the case.  So please take time to tweet, blog or whatever else you can do (however small) to help us spread the world about Quarrel – it all makes a difference.  Reference it in your latest film, tell your MP how disgusted you are at its nefarious pseudo-educational undertones, slag it off for not being CoD, despair at the number of obscure or overtly Scottish words it has in its dictionary, rage at all the rude words you can make when the parental controls are off, write a song about it – anything – so long as it helps spread the word!  Whatever helps people to hear about it and not simply ignore it would be most welcomed by us.  Particularly as Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to relegate games to an afterthought in the most recent redesign of the Xbox dashboard.

Lastly, Quarrel’s come a long, long way since it first appeared looking like this, and has taken a lot of effort from a lot of people to see the light of day.  So a huge THANK YOU again to everyone who has contributed to Quarrel along the way.  There’s a hell of a lot of you, far too many to list here, but whether you pitched the original idea to Dragons’ Denki back in 2007, filled in a questionnaire at Carronade in 2008, or saw the whole thing through from start to finish in 2012 you have my sincere and eternal gratitude.  You’ve all made Quarrel in to what I consider the best game I’ve ever had the honour of working on – and that’s saying something, as I’ve been lucky enough to work on some great ones.

It wasn’t the easiest journey to get here, that’s for sure.  There were many times when it would have made far more sense to throw in the towel and get on with making another dual-stick shooter or match-3 game.  But for whatever reason we just couldn’t bring ourselves to give up on Quarrel.  After all, as Zaphod Beeblebrox would say “Hey this is terrific. It means we really must be on to something if they’re trying to kill us!” :-)

We’re all very proud of the Xbox version of Quarrel – the iPhone version is great too of course, but it was originally built with XBLA multiplayer in mind.  We believe that’s where Quarrel moves from being a good game in to being a great game.  But ultimately, regardless of what those of us who made it might believe we have to leave that for those who play it to decide.  Something we’re only too happy to be able to do at long last.

We hope you like it as much as we do.

See you on the leaderboards!


55 refreshing comments

KitesAreFun says:

Well good luck. The only real problem, as I see it, is cheating may be too easy which tarnishes legitimate competition in ranked matches. How far that aspect ruins the experience I wouldn’t know.

Something else I was thinking about was the approach of picking just one word. Ultimately, I think that probably fits in better with a full featured multiplayer game like Quarrel with the tactical-board aspect and time limits.

But I’m sure you’re familiar with Word Ruffle as well:

I personally would have loved to see another mode in Quarrel, such as Word Ruffle-type mode, where you’re not making one BEST PICK but making many good picks which is apt to soften the blow of letter scoring being imperfect.

I know it’s all said and done, and looking back is pointless but… in Quarrel a lot of thought was involved. This is a terrific product non-random product.

Bookworm says:


You use the Collins official dictionary. Which is not the “Official Scrabble Dictionary” so quit saying it is. That is a different book entirely with different words.

I realize that the Collins book is used in an official capacity, but it’s a different book with a different set of words than the one you are claiming to use.

Colin says:

@KitesAreFun: Thanks for the thoughts – the single word method was deliberately chosen because it introduces a certain element of randomness. That means you still have a fighting chance in those 3 vs 8 underdog moments; however, we’d love to add all types of different play modes in future, such as the one you suggest. That would certainly help broaden Quarrel’s appeal to word lovers looking for a different type of experience.

@Bookworm: My apologies if you felt I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.

For anyone that’s interested why there could be any confusion about what constitutes an official Scrabble dictionary you might like to be aware that Scrabble uses two: one for North America and one for the rest of the world. Here’s an interesting link about it:

To be clear, Quarrel uses the Collins one, not the Merriam-Webster one.

I’ll look forward to the release of the first Official Quarrel Dictionary to finally draw a line under the matter! :-)

KitesAreFun says:

Okay Colin, then the single word method makes perfect sense in that context. I hadn’t thought of that.

[...] to release on Microsoft’s download service, as detailed by Denki MD Colin Anderson over on their blog. It turns out they had a lot of opposition from finance and marketing teams who said that [...]

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