Laevatein’s Campfire Tales: THQ and Its Final Fate

It’s always a sad day when anyone in the industry announces they’re closing shop. It’s an especially sad day when that happens to a large publisher like THQ, who have a number of properties and studios beloved by gamers everywhere, including some classics. With THQ filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all hopes were placed on life continuing almost as usual, with THQ finding a larger parent to buy them out. Unfortunately, as is the case with all bankruptcies, creditors and investors want to be reimbursed, so THQ effectively got gutted.

So what happened to the properties? Who made off like bandits, and who got left to bleed out in the harsh sun?

Here’s the list of properties sold:

  • Homefront to Crytek for $500,000
  • Metro series publishing rights to Koch Media for $5.8 million
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth publishing rights to Ubisoft for $3.2 million
  • Relic to SEGA for $26.6 million
  • THQ Montreal to Ubisoft for $2.5 million
  • Evolve to Take Two for $11 million
  • Volition to Koch Media for $22.3 million

There’s some good and some bad in all this, so let’s break it down a little, and predict whether or not these properties or developers got a good deal or not.

Homefront to Crytek for $500,000

Homefront, as you may know, is a rather not-so-great game. While it sought to break the mold by having the U.S. get invaded (instead of us doing the invading), it failed a little on that front by having to settle for North Korean invaders after determining it wasn’t a good idea to have China invade, but it failed even harder on a gameplay front, as it was essentially Call of Duty in all but name.

Nonetheless, Homefront still managed to sell somewhat decently. Crytek UK was also developing Homefront 2, so it was important that they held on to it. Fortunately for them, they got it really cheap, so I suppose it wasn’t in too much danger of being picked up by anyone else. While it’s plenty obvious they’d want to keep properties they’re working on, I do wonder what’s going to happen to it now that EA will likely be publishing it. Will they try to make it out to be another Call of Duty killer like Battlefield? Certainly not out of the question. With Homefront 2 using CryEngine 3, the relatively cheap costs for developers using their own engines, and new Microsoft and Sony consoles close at hand, it’s certainly feasible for EA to try and beat Activision to the punch by releasing Homefront 2 as a launch title for these new consoles, and marketing it as the must have shooter, EA could pull out ahead. Assuming Activision doesn’t try to race them to launch, of course.

Metro series publishing rights to Koch Media for $5.8 million

I do wonder if Koch Media follows the “hands-off” school of game publishing.

As I mentioned in my Metro 2033 review, it was a decently fun game, but some of its core concepts didn’t work. Here’s hoping 4A Games takes complaints into account and make an awesome sequel.

I’m none too familiar with Koch Media, so I’m having a hard time determining if this is a good or bad move. It seems Koch Media has published quite a number of games, all ranging in quality, but generally leaning toward good. That, and they did only buy publishing rights, so perhaps Metro: Last Light won’t be hit too hard.

South Park: The Stick of Truth publishing rights to Ubisoft for $3.2 million

Now this worries me a little.

Originally, the game was a joint operation between South Park Studios and Obsidian Entertainment, with THQ coming in to the picture later to publish it. While Ubisoft only have the publishing rights, who knows how far Ubisoft’s tendrils will reach. As Ubisoft’s games never really seem to go over too well with PC Gamers, what with Uplay, DRM, and other things, this could wind up being another strike against Obsidian Entertainment in the eyes of many. While I’d like to believe nothing bad will come out of this, South Park Studios’ contesting of the sale only reinforces my worries. To my understanding, South Park Studios wanted only THQ to publish it, and I suspect that’s due to some sort of skeptical view they hold of current publishers, nowadays.

Incidentally, this means I’m also a little worried about Metro: Last Light, too.

Relic to SEGA for $26.6 million

Warhammer: Total War’s probably going to be the best thing since sliced bread. Warhammer 40: Total War will probably be the best thing since you bowed down to the emperor.

Probably the best thing that could’ve happened to Relic. Creative Assembly, the developer of the Total War series, now working on a Warhammer game, will only benefit from Relic’s 40k experience. Granted, Warhammer and 40k aren’t the same thing, not by a long shot, but I don’t see any downsides to this. Plus, I’m sure Sega will let Relic do their own thing, when it comes to their titles.

Actually, I can think of a single downside: Homeworld didn’t get bought. Well, some indie developer is trying to fix that. Sure hope it goes through, I’d love some more Homeworld.

THQ Montreal to Ubisoft for $2.5 million

Looks like Ubisoft wanted some great talent for a cheap price, as THQ Montreal hasn’t come out with anything yet. You may think I’m not the biggest Ubisoft fan, but I’m not too critical of their creative processes. At the very least, we have nothing to lose in this, so that’s something.

Evolve to Take Two for $11 million

You may not know of Evolve, but it’s being developed by the Left 4 Dead team, Turtle Rock. With no other information on Evolve other than this auction, I don’t have much to say about this. Evolve looks to be a next gen game, so I guess this will give Take Two a head start on new Xbox and Playstation games.

Volition to Koch Media for $22.3 million

Perhaps the second biggest catch in this deal, looks like Koch Media hit a gold mine with the acquisition of the Saint’s Row developer. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Saint’s Row series. I’m more of a Red Faction guy, which is unfortunate, since Red Faction wasn’t picked up. A shame, but I can’t say I was too pleased with the recent games. At any rate, I can recognize that Koch Media hit a gold mine with this one. Whether they continue to do well with it is up in the air, but I certainly would assume they’d leave Volition to their own devices.

FreeSpace isn’t getting picked up though, so that makes me a little sad.

And the unsold Vigil, so easily forgotten…

… A Dark Souls-like Darksiders game would be pretty cool, actually.

If there’s one thing missing in this sale, it’s Vigil. While the two Darksiders games are the only ones they’ve developed, the two games are considered sleeper hits. While critics and gamers may have enjoyed the two, investors probably did not, as Darksiders II sold well below expectations. Thus, Vigil may have been the only ones left bleeding in the scorching sun…

… were it not for Crytek, Retro, and Platinum. Quite a weird three-way split, but it seems Crytek acquired 35 of Vigil’s employees, including their former general manager and co-founder, David Adams. Meanwhile, Retro has been snapping up employees one after another for some time, and Platinum has been interested in acquiring some of the developers and the possibly the Darksiders property, with even the main designer and main combat designer of Darksiders interested.

This three way split is quite intriguing, to say the least. Retro mostly acquired people on the art teams, which would only make Retro’s art even better (and their art is pretty damned amazing to begin with). Hopefully, Retro shows their new game at E3, as I can imagine it would be quite spectacular.

If Platinum got ahold of those developers (and the Darksiders property), you can see the Darksiders combat being further refined into something awesome, like most of their other games. Darksiders is pretty much right up their alley, anyway, so I don’t see why not. It may be worth pennies after the auction officially ends, so if Platinum were to acquire it, that would probably be the time.

Crytek’s the more confusing one. Crytek hasn’t really developed anything other than shooters, so far, so acquiring developers who’ve worked on two action-adventure games is basically telling us that Crytek is expanding. Hell, that’s not even speculation, as they just opened up offices in Austin, Texas (also where Retro is headquartered, coincidentally). That would put Crytek at a number of separate studios, which is similar to Bioware’s situation in the recent past. With Bioware, EA wanted all their RPGs to have the pretty strong (at the time) Bioware label. However, I can’t see Crytek USA working on shooters.

Crytek has been very interesting as of late, speaking of which. They have a pretty powerful engine in CryEngine 3, and do work on big, AAA titles, though their budgets are notably smaller than the budgets of most other developers. At the same time, they also seem to be heading in the free-to-play direction. Couple this with all their new studio acquisitions and such, and I wonder if Crytek may be trying to get out from EA’s umbrella. Crytek does seem to be getting pretty big, much bigger than many of EA’s other studios.

Could we see Crytek becoming independent developers like Valve? Probably not, as Crytek doesn’t have nearly as much of a revenue gold mine as Valve does. I do see Crytek gaining some sort of autonomy, more than usually afforded. That would be a pretty interesting move; it may even see the release of TimeSplitters 4. A man can dream, I suppose.

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A mad scientist who's so cool!


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