June 6th, 2024

The sad story of Pocket Volvy, Devolver Digital's lost virtual pet

By Andy Kelly

In the mid 1990s the world echoed with the high-pitched bleeps of virtual pets. Kids were transfixed by these tiny plastic eggs and the cute pixelated creatures within. They'd excitedly feed, pet, and bathe their needy digital blobs, while their real pets sat depressed and malnourished in the corner wondering why their owners were ignoring them. It was a phenomenon, and we wanted in.

So in 1996 we decided to create our own virtual pet. To save money, we outsourced the project to a small tech company based somewhere unpronounceable in Denmark. The owner, Henrik, said he could do it, no problem, and after 16 beers in a Danish bar we took his word for it. He had a trustworthy face, and that was enough for us to give him the contract.

A week later, Pocket Volvy was born. Devolver Digital had officially entered the lucrative virtual pet market. Players were tasked with looking after a charming digital representation of our iconic big-handed mascot, Volvy, feeding him onions, letting him play video games, and shining his smart little shoes to keep him happy. The happier he was, the bigger his hand would grow.

Pocket Volvy sketches

In the summer of '96, shipping crates full of Pocket Volvies were making their way from Henrik's workshop (well, he called it a 'workshop' but it was more like a small shack) to stores around the world. Our Danish friend assured us they were fully tested and functional, and we had no reason to doubt him. But then we started receiving troubling reports from parents that their kids' digital Volvies were behaving strangely. Something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Volvy would not stop—how we do put this delicately—emptying himself. You see, part of the gameplay in Pocket Volvy involved cleaning up his poop to keep him happy and healthy. But because of a catastrophic software bug, shortly after switching the device on he simply would not stop. You could press the button to clean the mess up, but the sheer volume would become overwhelming. Children wept as their screens filled up with poop, killing Volvy.

We tried to contact Henrik, but his phone line had been disconnected. We visited his shack, located in a forest on the outskirts of Copenhagen, but the place was abandoned. All that remained was a note with the words 'I.O.U. $250,000' scribbled on it. Thus began the eye-wateringly expensive process of recalling and refunding every single Pocket Volvy that had ever been sold. We didn't stop until every last one was back in our warehouse, then we destroyed them.

Pocket Volvy packaging

It was suggested we should bury them in the desert like that one game, but the risk of them being discovered again by inquisitive documentary makers decades later was too great. Total, merciless destruction was the only answer. We were so thorough in our efforts that no visual evidence of Pocket Volvy remains, which is why, to illustrate this article, we asked Volvy fans who were unlucky enough to briefly own one as children to sketch it from memory.

We cast every single Pocket Volvy into a really big, really hot furnace, and with that the tragic story of Pocket Volvy was over. Or was it? Rumours have begun to circulate that an emulated beta version of Pocket Volvy's system software has been located in the depths of the dark web by elite net surfers.

We don't know if there's any truth to this, but please: if you find it, do not play it. It no longer reflects the values of Devolver Digital or Volvy. This dark chapter in our history should not be forgotten, but we'd rather you remember our pal as the star of beloved games like Cigarette Heist or Volvy Jumping Day.