Gamer's Piece: Another one bites the dust
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 22:01
Last week, the famous publisher THQ shut its doors for the last time after more than 20 years of service to the gaming industry since its inception in 1989. The writing had been on the wall for a while; when a massive company is selling its blockbuster games in a Humble Bundle, a choose-your-own-price pricing level normally reserved for smaller indie developers or charity offers, it’s easy to see THQ was in trouble.
But let’s reminisce about THQ’s glory days. Readers my age and younger should remember the company mostly for its legion of licensed games, which were a major profit-maker throughout their lifespan. Wrestling fans will remember their World Championship Wrestling games in the mid-90s, their World Wrestling Federation games, which began after they acquired the WWF’s license around the turn of the millennium. Fans of cartoons probably owned at least one of the company’s Nickelodeon or Disney/Pixar game adaptations.
The company had more checkered success with original games, some of which were minor hits, others disappointing cases of what might have been. The company’s premier success has been the “Saints Row” series, initially an early 360/PS3 “Grand Theft Auto” ripoff. With a sequel, the series found its stride, becoming the more-ridiculous younger brother of “GTA,” and by the time “Saints Row The Third” hit shelves in 2011 it had nearly overshadowed the original series, if only due to the latter’s large timespan between releases.
For every success like “Saints Row,” THQ saw dropping profits from dwindling licensed-game sales and increased competition in the video game marketplace after the 2008 recession. It also closed five of its developers in 2008, announcing a plan to invest in “fewer, better bets.” This brought on their downfall, as most of their resulting efforts were disappointments at best. Its stock dropped 26 percent in March 2011 after “Homefront” failed to reach expectations. When other big-budget releases, including “Red Faction: Armageddon,” followed in the underselling footsteps of “Homefront,” the company was brought to dire straits.
The death knell for THQ, though, developed out of a bonafide success. When the company released “uDraw Studio” for the Wii in 2010, it saw impressive sales despite the inclusion of an expensive drawing tablet. Hungry for more success, the company’s executives greenlit “uDraw” releases for the 360 and PS3. What was a big success on the Wii became a drastic failure on other consoles, which had a more adult customer base than Nintendo’s little machine that could. This major commercial failure (and hundreds of thousands of unsold drawing tablets) was probably the final nail in the coffin.
As THQ dies, some of its past lives on. The developer Crytek bought the rights to “Homefront,” to which they’re making a sequel. Relic, developers of “Company of Heroes” and “Warhammer” games, were bought by Sega. An unnamed future game was taken by Take Two, who also nabbed the rights to the WWE. THQ Montreal, who are finishing “South Park: The Stick of Truth,” are now owned by Ubisoft, and the rights to the sleeper-hit “Metro” series were bought by Koch Media.