Edmonton-based company finds success on the mobile game market with sQworble

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An Edmonton studio has unscrambled the puzzle behind making a successful mobile game with their crossword scramble, sQworble.

Currently available on IOS and Android, sQworble challenges players to solve crossword scrambles and unlock jigsaw puzzles that depict famous landmarks. Since its release in July 2022, the game from Edmonton-based group A Perfect Partnership (APP) has had over 550,000 unique downloads, with roughly 65,000 active users every month. 

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“We’ve got some extremely active players,” said Cameron Ambrose, lead developer at APP. “We never thought we would have to have over 750 jigsaw puzzles in the game, but we had people who were just pushing and pushing. They’ll do several hundred levels a day.”

While research from the Entertainment Software Association pegs the median age of a “gamer” between 33 and 44 years old, sQworble most appeals to an older audience.

“I’m an older guy, but I play young games and I created games made for younger people,” Ambrose said. “We’ve got somebody who’s a self-described ‘active 94-year-old’ who loves our game. Like it’s wow, it’s kind of crazy, but a lot of our audience is people in their 60s and up.”

From crossroads to crosswords

While sQworble may be APP’s first big success, it’s not their first attempt at a mobile game, and the path to its creation was anything but simple. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ambrose was struggling to find work as a video game developer in Alberta.

He was a freelance software developer who had a contract cancelled after the employer got cold feet. That’s when an old colleague reached out looking for ways to revitalize their own declining game company. Ambrose pitched a word game for mobile phones he’d been keeping in his back pocket for the better part of 10 years.

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That’s how A Perfect Partnership was formed, a mobile game studio that “creates games for a wide audience but geared towards older individuals to entertain and challenge the mind,” according to their App Store profile. 

Ambrose’s decade-old idea became a reality in the form of word search game WordSlayer, which tried to appeal to a younger audience by applying multiplayer mechanics, like leaderboards and timed competitive prizes. It didn’t end up being the hit Ambrose had hoped for.

“A lot of time and effort went into it and we launched it onto the market, it did nothing but pretty much be an abject failure, which is quite disappointing,” Ambrose said. “We had a hard lesson on how the modern gaming industry works. We hired some acquisition experts who had insights about the kind of key metrics that we would need to be seeing to have a successful product.”

With their new knowledge, APP published their second game, Hidden Word Find, which had a more successful outcome than WordSlayer, but still wasn’t the hit they were seeking. Those two first experiences taught them everything they needed to create sQworble.

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“From all the information we received kind of looking at our key demographic and everything else, we knew that (WordSlayer) was just too complex a game,” Ambrose said. “(Older players) want the freedom in this word game genre. It’s very casual. You want a stress-free experience. So if your game is being timed and your scores are being determined by time, that’s not appealing to them.”

For seniors, by seniors

The age demographic to which sQworble appeals doesn’t surprise Ambrose, 53, who says he is the youngest member of his “non-traditional” studio. The average age of APP’s employees is 63.

“Most people probably consider game companies to be filled with young guys,” Ambrose said. “That is certainly not us and I think that’s why we’re kind of driven toward board gaming. We’re basically a game company of seniors creating games for seniors.”

You can find sQworble and other games by A Perfect Partnership on the Google and IOS app stores.

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