Devolver Digital: 'We think E3 is a special form of torture'



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E3 is a chance for fans to get a glimpse of new releases and the future of gaming

For the uninitiated, the main hall of E3 is essentially a theme park for anyone into gaming.

From a full scale Pokemon Gym to a haunted mansion belonging to Luigi (you know, Mario’s brother) it’s a full-blown assault on the senses from games companies to grab your attention.

But in a car park opposite the LA convention centre there’s a stall that looks and sounds pretty different.

And it’s how Devolver Digital have been doing it for the last decade.

“Early in our careers, we realised that room wasn’t for us,” the company’s co-founder Mike Wilson tells Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

While we chat, he’s reclined in the back of a pristine airstream caravan overlooking ping pong tables, AstroTurf and a bubble machine.

“It’s like a special form of torture and one you can pay millions of dollars for the privilege of.”

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Graham Struthers (left) and Mike Wilson are two of the independent company’s 16 staff

Graham Struthers, Devolver’s other co-founder, adds: “Some of the prices of display spaces in there (yes, they refer to E3 as if it’s Voldermort throughout this interview) would be our marketing spend in 10 years.”

Aside from the price, one of the duo’s main concerns with the convention is how it can feel inaccessible.

“I was at the first one (E3), trying to hand out business cards,” explains Mike.

“It’s completely overwhelming to a new person to the industry. I’m not just picking on E3, it’s industry shows in general.

“The whole model is built for the big names.”

Devolver could just, you know, not come at all.

But Graham claims their role is to “hold a mirror up to the industry” and offer a different approach to how major conferences carry themselves.

“Basically, we’re an affectionate punch to video games, and all the stupid stuff that we have to do.

“I think some people who work for those big companies – who we’re friends with and are really great creative people – are on the same wavelength, they just don’t have the freedom to say it.”

Mike adds: “It’s basically our jobs to be ridiculous because other people can’t get away with it.”

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E3 attracts thousands of people and hundreds of companies every year

But with great ridiculousness comes great responsibility (or as close as Devolver’s founders can get to responsibility – these are two men who say some of their biggest achievements are the result of drunk tweets to other developers).

“Of course, it’s not great to just make fun of something and then not actually do anything about it,” says Mike.

Graham adds: “You don’t have to go too far into game forums to find a lot of very angry people.

“And they’re angry about things which they just don’t understand because we never really explain the complexity of the game.

“You never really meet the people making those games. All they have is a PR person punching out a message about a bunch of new content coming in the sequel to the game.

“For us, it’s the other way around, we put the people who make the games right out front.

“We always see the developers as talent, in the same way you would see band members as talent.”

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The Devolver car park offers a different type of gaming to the main event behind it

Mark reflects on their 10 years in the car park by offering their “magic formula” for the future.

“Not everybody in there hates it, some people love it.

“But a lot of people would rather sit down and have a conversation where you can hear one another.

“We realised that years ago, so can we just not be miserable in there?”

You know where “there” is by now.

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