Devolver Digital: Gaming’s Underdog Publisher
In recent years, video games have been leaning heavier toward the business end of the medium with season passes, microtransactions and downloadable content(DLC) becoming commonplace. With publishers like Activision, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts continually reinforcing practices like this, it can be easy to forget about the smaller, lesser-known ones who try to keep the creative aspect of video games alive. Devolver Digital stands as one of the most unique publishers due to its bold and direct approach to game publishing.
Comprised mostly of veteran game developers, Devolver Digital seeks to spread the word of smaller games that usually slip under the cracks in years dominated by massive game releases.In addition to spreading word through advertisements, Devolver Digital takes minimal revenue cuts from the developers under the belt in order to make sure the developers are properly compensated for their efforts. They are also open in who they will publish for with developers from countries such as Crotea, Brazil, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom. This approach to publishing led to the success of video games such as the Hotline Miami series, Broforce, The Messenger and Enter the Gungeon.
Devolver Digital has built its publishing foundations on the idea of refusing to conform to the normal schedule of game releases. Instead of acquiring developers in order to force them to make the same formulaic games every few years, the people who work at Devolver Digital actively seek the most bizarre gameplay concepts. Last year alone, they released Minit, a charming game that revolves around solving puzzles with the pressure of dying every 60 seconds, the Messenger, a Ninja-Gaiden homage that contains levels that actively switch from 8-bit to 16-bit pixel art, and Gris, an insightful, platformer with traditionally drawn animation that focuses on the negative effects of isolation. Most gaming publishers are unwilling to take a risk on creative ideas like this which makes Devolver Digital stand out so much as a result.
Another part of their appeal is the directness in how they communicate with both their customers and their clients. While larger companies tend to use industry spokespeople and vague language to mislead their companies, the experienced staff at Devolver Digital speak openly about how publishers aren’t entirely necessary to ensure a game’s success and that self-publishing can be just as viable for some developers. This can be best exemplified with their approach to E3 conferences. Companies like Sony and Microsoft often use pre-rendered footage and grandiose language along with professionalism to make their new games seem better than they actually are. On the other hand, Devolver Digital’s conferences act more as brazen showcases of how much they can unapologetically mock gaming trends. The tone throughout is zany and makes the game showcase stick with viewers since it has such a crazy conference to go along with. These conferences brilliantly illustrate the divide between how normal publishers act and how Devolver Digital chooses to represent itself.
As games become more and more popular, it’s easy to see them become a tool created simply to make as much money as possible. As games become more advanced, there will always be big publishers that try their best to sell video games solely as a product. Devolver Digital is one of the best publishers in the industry because it actually cares for the people it works to support and tries its best to spread creativity throughout the medium of video games.