THQ Is Dead, Long Live THQ
The dust has settled, THQ has been broken down into its component parts (IPs in this case) and redistributed across a fairly broad spectrum within the gaming industry. Some of those moves have been met with joy, such as Koch taking over Metro: Last Light. Whilst others have met almost universal revulsion, such as Homeworld going to Gearbox. The specifics of where everything went, for the purpose of this article, are mostly irrelevant. Not to say none of it matters of course, just that the minutiae of the details are a story for another time. The most important part is that everything, every last little bit, including a hefty majority of their former staff. All of it has found new homes. So yes, THQ is dead, but it is not gone. Or rather, their legacy will live on.
But what does this all mean? And what bearing does it have on their future? Well, everything, unsurprisingly. But also nothing. You see, in a very real sense, THQ no longer exists. It's a sad thing to hear, but it's true. For all intents and purposes, they are a nonentity, a fond memory of a gentle lover's embrace. The sigh on the wind when you recall you dear departed's name. Yes, I know it's overly poetic, even maudlin, of me to say so, but indulge me a moment. I, like many both here at Pixel Judge and elsewhere, hold several of the THQ IPs amongst my most treasured gaming memories. From the mind boggling destructible environments of Red Faction, to the poignant social commentary of Red Faction, over to the emotionally charged scenes of heroism of...okay, enough about Red Faction. And that's my point. THQ are gone, and everything they were will be lost to time.
And this is a very big but (cheeky) But! That's not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. Yes, the company we know, the company we knew, is defunct. Their trading name gone from the industry, possibly forever. But their legacy will remain. Remember what I said about Red Faction? Regarded, by many, as the finest series to ever come out of Volition studios, who are now a living, functioning part of Koch Media. Though they seem to have passed up several of the franchises (Red Faction being one of them, which has now been claimed by Nordic Games) and taken only the studio and Saint’s Row. So yes, THQ themselves, the mastermind, the creator, the nurturing Father, has gone. But the children live on in their new homes, able to face another day, and wow us with another entry in a series that, until recently, was unlikely to ever see the light of day again precisely because THQ had been struggling for money.
So too for everything else. Relic is now part of SEGA, all things considered, THQ Montreal and South Park The Stick of Truth are now resident with Ubisoft who, despite their appalling DRM practices still produce outstanding games of their own. Then again, it’s a South Park game, so it’s not really (sorry Matt and Trey) that big of a deal all things considered. But still. And even the criminally under appreciated Homefront will see new life at the hands of Crytek.
Fasten your seatbelts!
The key thing to take from all this is that everything that has now been rehomed, has been rehomed with companies that are far more financially stable than THQ. I mean, they would have to be. They invested enormous amounts of capital to purchase the rights in the first place. Nordic games shelled out just shy of five million dollars! You don’t do that unless you have some degree of financial stability behind you. And you certainly don’t do that without making plans to recoup those losses. So, what is the best way to make back the money you spent buying the rights to an intellectual property (games in this case)? Why, you make more games of course. But not just games for the sake of games (how many times can I use the words ‘games’ before it becomes ridiculous?).
Anyway, the point I'm making, and what I want you to take away from this - this is not the end of THQ. It is only the end of a chapter. Look at it as a new beginning, the dawning of a new age. So often we look at the whole and fail to see the specifics that make it all up. All of those people who made the bastion of creativity that we have those fond memories of, the teams that developed our beloved games. Those people are still there and they are still working. They have not suddenly lost all of their ability simply because their parent, umbrella company ceased to be a financial entity. Nor have they, thankfully, lost their jobs and their ability to continue making games. In fact quite the opposite. Many of them are now in far stronger positions, with far more resources available to them than they have ever had before.
Which leads me to ask, what would be the point in THQ reforming? It could happen, maybe it even will happen, but it's entirely unnecessary. THQ made some fantastic games in their time, they gave everything they could. But they always lacked capital. They were something of a niche amongst the gaming world, making what should have been multi-million unit sellers, but lacking the clout of, frankly, enough cash to make it a reality. Now 'they' are in a position to really shine. Now their IPs are in the hands of people with the resources to achieve everything that the THQ studios wanted to implement in the first place. Why didn’t Darksiders have co-op, like we were lead to believe it would? The cost.
So I am saddened by the turn of events, certainly I am. My heart goes out to them. I can only begin to imagine how soul crushing it must have been, seeing everything they had worked for crumbling around them. Watching it from the outside was bad enough. But now the dust has settled, and honestly, everything turned out okay. There were better outcomes possible perhaps, the deal with Clearlake would have given them the space to carry on as they were. But what we were ultimately left with is the potential for greatness that could have very easily been lost. And I, for one, am drooling in anticipation to see what the backing of a 'triple A' powerhouse like Ubisoft can do, for people who produced some of the best games ever made on shoestring budgets.
Faster Sanguinious - there is slaughter to be done!
For we, the consumers, the loyal disciples of the THQ ideal, the potential rewards are incalculable.
So stay strong, keep your chin up, and enjoy, because the best is yet to come. The talent is there, spread across a much wider spectrum, with a lot more backing behind it. Which will bring other benefits. Each of those teams that have moved to a new studio will have the opportunity to not only continue with their own work, but work in conjunction with new people, new technologies, new IPs. The dispersal of all that talent will not weaken anyone, it will lead to a mutual exchange of ideas that bring the potential for even greater things. Just imagine a Company of Heroes game with the style of Valkyria Chronicles. And that, truly, is only the tip of the iceberg. So look on this not as a nightmare, look rather as a bright future ahead of us. There will be changes, some we won’t like, some we will. But the legacy of THQ will live on for many years to come.
The final redistribution stands as follows:
- Metro, Saints Row, Volition Inc. - Deep Silver/Koch Media
- Company of Heroes, Warhammer 40K, Relic Games - SEGA
- South Park, THQ Montreal - Ubisoft
- Evolve - Take-Two Interactive
- Homefront - Crytek
- Homeworld - Gearbox
- All Star franchise, Baja: Edge of Control, Battle of the Bands, Beat City, Big Beach Sports, Big Family Games, Crawler, de Blob, Deadly Creatures, Deep Six, Destroy All Humans, Dood's Big Adventure, Drawn to Life, Elements of Destruction, Fantastic Pets, Frontlines: Fuel of War, Full Spectrum Warrior, Ten Hammers, Juiced, Lock's Quest: Construction Combat, Neighborhood Games, Pax Imperia, Stuntman: Ignition, Summoner, Terranium, The Outfit, Titan Quest, uDraw, World of Zoo* - 505 Games
- Costume Quest, Daniel X, Darksiders franchise, Deepak Chopra's Leela, Fancy Nancy: Tea Party Time!, Jeopardy, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Let's Ride Best of Breed, Marvel Super Hero Squad franchise, MX and ATV franchise, Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase, Nexuiz, Paws & Claws franchise, PurrPals 2, Red Faction franchise Rio, Rocket Riot, Screwjumper, Scripps Spelling Bee, Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House, Stacking, Supreme Commander franchise, The Biggest Loser, Truth or Lies, Vampire Legends: Power of Three, Wheel of Fortune, World of Zoo*, Worms franchise, You Don't Know Jack - Nordic Games
*World of Zoo sold in two lots, once for licensed and owned. Full details on why are not currently available.