Devolver Digital’s Graeme Struthers Talks E3 2018 Press Conference Plans, Publisher’s Future

Devolver Digital has been around for nearly ten years, publishing dozens upon dozens of indie hits during this time. After a series of Serious Sam HD remasters made by Croteam, Devolver quickly began publishing more titles, like the acclaimed and similarly irreverent Hotline Miami. Their breadth has grown with time, however, with more ponderous and exploratory games, like 2014’s excellent The Talos Principle. Hardcore Gamer had the opportunity to sit down with Graeme Struthers, one of the heads of Devolver Digital, to talk about Devolver’s unique place in the industry and where they’ll go from here.

Devolver Digital is known for their over-the-top games, but their growing range of titles have broken them away from being a one-trick pony and this eclectic nature has begun to break Devolver off from the crowd. “It’s nice that people think we’re set apart from everyone else,” Graeme said. “Or maybe it’s not nice, maybe that means we’re really bad and everyone else is really good! I don’t know that we’re very different, to be entirely honest. We don’t think about what sets us apart much, we just get on with what we’re doing.”

This notion that Devolver’s differences are negative is almost certainly untrue considering their success. In fact, it’s their global approach that has more likely than not elevated them beyond the average indie publisher. “We’ve been around for quite a long time now, nearly 10 years, which as far as indie and digital publishing goes is probably about as long as anyone’s been doing it,” Graeme said. “We started out with a team in Austin and a team in London, and that made it easier for us to connect with developers and easier for us to actually put those games in front of media, because we could actually do both North America and Western Europe, so I think that gave us a good start. And most other companies tend to be based just here, or the UK or France or Germany, and don’t necessarily have the same kinds of opportunities as us.”

With successes from Croteam, Free Lives, Dennaton Games and various other developers, Devolver’s range of titles continues to grow every year, and developers tend to gravitate towards Devolver because of their eclectic streak. “We really like the way things are,” Graeme said. “Croteam are always gonna produce more sizable games. They’re a 40-45 person studio. Free Lives who made Genital Jousting is a 10-15 person group. To go from Broforce to Genital Jousting, that’s not a genre we were pushing that’s just the way they’ve gone. I think a lot of the time, people look at you and say ‘they wouldn’t be very interested.’ Because we have a very diverse portfolio, I think that means they’ll think ‘they’ve done a Pidgeon dating simulator, they’ve done Genital Jousting, they’ve done Talos Principle. So, sure, maybe they’ll consider publishing our game.’”

During last year’s E3, Devolver Digital hosted their “Big Fancy Press Conference,” a 15-minute, pre-recorded video that slowly devolved into complete madness, exploding heads and all. Press and fan reaction alike were split – some found the bizarre humor hilarious and poignant, others found it entirely unnecessary, considering hardly a minute of the conference showed actual gameplay. “We didn’t think anyone would watch it, we didn’t really show any games!” Graeme said. “We hadn’t thought of it as an actual press conference. In fact, that was the whole point of it. Once lots and lots of people watched it, our lovely PR people were like ‘you idiots, why didn’t you show any games?’ And we were like ‘we didn’t think anyone would watch it!’ So that left us with a bit of a dilemma. Do we do another one?”

As to whether or not Devolver is going to attempt a similar curveball of a conference, it’s a bit up in the air. “I think something’s happening. But, generally, I’d say no. Who knows? We’ll see,” Graeme said. “I think we should do the world’s most boring PowerPoint-driven press conference ever, with some graphs, some transitional slides moments, the works. Someone in a suit wearing a nice plain white shirt and tie and just doing a very good succinct PowerPoint presentation about our release strategy for the next year.”

As to where Devolver sees themselves another 10 years down the line, they’re equally uncertain. “We’ve never been able to predict anything,” Graeme said. “If you asked us 10 years ago if we’d be on a Nintendo platform, I’d highly doubt that. But here we are, with 4-5 projects in the works for the Switch. You can’t see the future in video games. I don’t recall anyone here last year talking about PUBG or Fortnite, and now it’s like, I wish we had one of those! I don’t really know. Something you didn’t predict will happen, that’s for sure. I worked on a game called BladeRunner a while back, and when the film was made, there were all these great big corporate advertisements, and they predicted which would be the major brands in the future, and now most of those have gone out of business. Your idea of what the future is, and what reality will be, is impossible to predict.”