I visited the DreadXP booth with a clear goal in mind: to try out the many horror games I have seen my favorite YouTubers play. Over the course of a few days, I manage to play demos of Sucker for Love: First Date, a dating sim featuring Ln’eta, a lady Cthulhu; My Friendly Neighborhood, an FPS where you shoot letters at deadly muppets and bind them to the ground with duct tape; and The Mortuary Assistant, where you work on cadavers while something sinister is afoot. Every game is unique and representative of a different genre, with a lot of variety. This variety of horror games was something I asked the head of operations for DreadXP, Ted Hentschke, about during an interview at PAX.
Picking Ted’s Brain
Hentschke takes a seat at a table overlooking all the gamers playing his published titles at his booth. When I pose a question about whether it was always a goal to have a good variety on display, he answers, “My goal was to bring my love of horror into the world of games. The variety comes from the personal factor of the developers. I want to offer money to individuals, one-to-two-man teams, that is life-changing for them.” It’s a noble goal that shows Hentschke’s heart is in the right place.
One thing I notice is that all the demos at DreadXP’s booth are only for PC. I ask Hentschke if he’d be interested in branching off into the console market, especially after the success of Doki Doki Literature Club on Nintendo Switch. “Yes, it is something we are currently pursuing,” he responds. “We are making our current titles with the mindset of making porting as easy as possible. The timeline is still up in the air, though.”
On Streamers and Balancing Sequels with New IPs
I mention to Hentschke that I knew a lot of DreadXP’s titles from YouTube streamers I follow and ask how important streaming is for promotional purposes. His response is a bit 50/50: “I feel it is extremely important. However, streamers are not the ultimate say. Return on investment is also important, as well as focusing on games that are fun for players first and foremost, and not games we think streamers will flock to.”
Colorful games like Sucker for Love: First Date and My Friendly Neighborhood have huge potential to get sequels. Does Hentschke think it’s a challenge to balance the demand for sequels with developing new IPs? “Yes. For sequels, we already have our (Dread X Collection), and there are two more Sucker for Love expansions on the way. For new IPs, we have to pursue which ones are a good fit. There are lots of good ideas, and the market is competitive. It’s easier to make a sequel and harder for me to tell a developer ‘no.'”
Influences and What’s Next for DreadXP
It’s clear Hentschke loves the horror genre, and that love is what led to him publishing spooky video games. What are his favorite films and games? “Movie-wise, I like more modern horror. Found footage films, Insidious, although I do like the classic The Thing. The video games I like are Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason, Resident Evil 4, and Silent Hill. On the indie side, I’m a fan of Night of the Consumer and SOMA.” That last answer gets a big nod of agreement from me. SOMA made me question what is the moral thing to do and genuinely made me cry.
Outside of The Mortuary Assistant, which is quite scary and unnerving, the other titles I played at the DreadXP booth had humor combined with horror. I feel the two genres mix well together and wonder if Hentschke agrees and if he thinks other genres like sci-fi would work in his published games. “There is no horror without humor,” he offers. “They go hand in hand. Horror is such a versatile genre, I feel it could mix with any other.” Upon hearing his answer, I am reminded of laugh-out-loud moments in movies like Friday the 13th (Who didn’t guffaw when Mrs. Voorhees was decapitated?) and have to agree.
As for what’s next for DreadXP? “We have 10 games in production right now,” says Hentschke. “We want to continue supporting independent projects. We’re not trying to become a AA studio right away.” I thank Hentschke for his time and leave with a great deal of respect for his vision. It’s great to have a bonafide horror fan in charge of funding independent developers’ dreams. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for DreadXP.