Mike Wilson (executive)
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Mike Wilson (also Michael S. Wilson as a filmmaker), is a video game executive and co-founder of Devolver Digital. Starting at DWANGO as VP of Development before being hired to handle marketing efforts at id Software in 1996, Wilson has had a hand in founding G.O.D., Gamecock Media Group, and Devolver Digital. Wilson was also the CEO of Ion Storm.
Joining id Software in 1996 to help with the marketing of company's gaming catalogue, Wilson oversaw the launches of several notable games in id's line-up, including sequels and add-ons to games in the Doom and Heretic/Hexen series. Mike also oversaw the launch the retail shareware version of Quake through use of encrypted CD-ROMs and later DVDs, making the titles readily available to all major retailers and even 7-11 stores nationwide.
Leaving id Software at the end of 1996, Wilson went on to join John Romero and Tom Hall to launch the game development company, Ion Storm. Wilson was CEO from Dec 1996 to Dec 1997 and helped grow the company from 8 to 88 employees before exiting due to a highly volatile and public conflict with the third developer partner in the company, Todd Porter, who became CEO after Wilson's departure. Before he left to found Gathering of Developers, Wilson was instrumental in bringing Warren Spector into the Ion fold, who created the Deus Ex franchise out of the Austin office.
Gathering of Developers
In January 1998, Wilson, along with Harry Miller, CEO of Ritual Entertainment, and several other independent development studios including 3D Realms, Epic Games, Terminal Reality, and PopTop Software, announced Gathering of Developers aka g.o.d. (and later known as GodGames). Gathering was painted as an artist-friendly, developer-driven publishing operation which would brand its developers above the publishing label and permit them to own their intellectual property, thereby earning the highest royalty rates in the industry at that time. Funded through distribution and co-publishing deals by Take-Two Interactive, Gathering went on to publish several top-selling PC games including Railroad Tycoon 2, Stronghold, Serious Sam, Tropico, Darkstone, Mafia, and finally Max Payne after the company's acquisition by Take-Two in May 2000. After the sudden loss of Gathering co-founder Doug Myres in the summer of 2001, Wilson and Miller negotiated a separation for themselves and almost their entire Texas-based crew from Take-Two Interactive.
Wilson along with the majority of talent at Gathering went on to form SubstanceTV.
After leaving Take-Two in 2001, Wilson took the majority of Gathering's employees with him to a new start-up video-magazine on DVD called SubstanceTV. SubstanceTV's focus was aimed at Gen-X friendly, non-mainstream content such as music videos, short films, original short documentaries, and other content not available elsewhere in a pre-YouTube world. Unable to make the venture work commercially, Wilson winded it down in August 2002 after publishing seven issues.
In 2002, Wilson was invited back to the industry as Executive Vice President of A&R at Take-Two Interactive to help lead the company's recently acquired stable of independent developers and properties. Having already started work on his first feature documentary at the time, Wilson took up dual roles in gaming and film during 2002-2004, working for Take-Two out of a small Gathering office in Austin while producing the film Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock (released in 2006 by WEA) out of his Gone Off Deep Productions office across the hall.
Upon the completion of both his contract with Take-Two (and his non-compete afterward) and film production, Wilson rejoined Harry Miller in a fundraising effort to start up another independent games publisher, codenamed "God2."
Taking nearly two years to raise funds, "God2" would eventually go on to become "Gone off Deep Games" in August 2006. During that time, Wilson completed another documentary entitled The Temple Builder.
Gamecock Media Group
On February 12, 2007, Mike Wilson and his partners Harry Miller and Rick Stults announced the formation of Gamecock Media Group, a new video game publisher that "they hope will act as the equivalent of an independent film company for small game developers." Gamecock was acquired by SouthPeak Games in October 2008, after releasing several titles including Mushroom Men for Wii and Nintendo DS, Dementium: The Ward for Nintendo DS, Hail to the Chimp for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Legendary for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Stronghold: Crusader Extreme for PC, Insecticide for PC and Nintendo DS, and Fury for PC. Southpeak dissolved the brand and released later Gamecock titles, such as Velvet Assassin and Section 8 under their own label.
In late 2008, Mike Wilson rejoined Harry Miller and several other former partners to found Devolver Digital, a producer/publisher hybrid initially working with Croteam, creators of the Serious Sam franchise that Wilson and Miller helped establish while with Gathering of Developers. Devolver's first release, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, came out in November 2009 on PC and January 2010 on Xbox Live Arcade. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter was released in May 2010 on PC and September 22 on XBLA.
After the release of Serious Sam 3 in 2011, Devolver decided to shift its focus from larger development cycles to the emerging indie gaming scene. Using the Serious Sam series as a test bed for indie development and relations, Devolver worked with developer Vlambeer to release Serious Sam: The Random Encounter in October 2011. Since then, Devolver has gone on to release Hotline Miami with developer Dennaton Games, selling over 2,000,000 copies on Steam (software) alone as of October, 2016.
Devolver Digital Films
At SXSW 2013, Devolver announced that they would be extending the brand to digital film distribution. Understanding the process of modern digital distribution from his own experience as both a games publisher and independent filmmaker, Wilson is currently spearheading Devolver's film distribution arm, bringing in partner Andie Grace as the company's VP of Acquisitions. By the end of 2013, Devolver had released more than a dozen independent films from the festival circuit, and is currently seeking more completed and near-completed projects to help promote and distribute across various cable VODs and digital release channels.
- Christine Biederman (January 14, 1999). "Stormy Weather". Dallas Observer.
- Upstart Video Game Publisher to Focus on Small Developers - New York Times
- Ben Kuchera. "How five men are changing the business, and size, of game publishing". Penny Arcade Report. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
- Daniel Krupa. "Hotline Miami Coming to PS3 and PS Vita". IGN. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- "SXSW: Videogame Developer/Publisher Devolver Digital Adds a Film Distribution Arm!". Aintitcoolnews.com. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- Devolver Digital. "Devolver Digital Doubles Down Indie Game Champs Bring Their Chops to VOD Film Releasing" (PDF). Devolver Digital. Retrieved 2013-03-07.