The fate of game publisher and developer THQ had been looking grim for some time now, and today, the company announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Here is the first portion of their announcement:
THQ Inc. (THQI), a leading worldwide developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software, today announced that it entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement with a “stalking horse bidder,” affiliates of Clearlake Capital Group, L.P., to acquire substantially all of the assets of THQ’s operating business, including THQ’s four owned studios and games in development. The sale will allow THQ to shed certain legacy obligations and emerge with the strong financial backing of a new owner with substantial experience in software and technology.
To facilitate the sale, THQ and its domestic business units have filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company’s foreign operations, including Canada, are not included in the filings. The company has obtained commitments from Wells Fargo and Clearlake for debtor-in possession (DIP) financing of approximately $37.5 million, subject to Court approval.
THQ will continue operating its business without interruption during the sale period, subject to Court approval of THQ’s first-day motions. All of the company’s studios remain open, and all development teams continue. The company remains confident in its existing pipeline of games. THQ maintains relationships with some of the top independent development studios around the globe. As part of the sale, the company is seeking approval to assume the contracts of these studios, and Clearlake will assume these contracts.
So, what does this mean? At the moment, how things are going to shake out isn’t 100% certain. The assumption is that one of two things will happen: Clearlake could try to get THQ into a position where the entire company would be sold as a whole, or THQ would be broken up, and its different properties sold to various other publishers who show interest in those assets.
Obviously, this is a terrible situation for THQ, and our best wishes go out to everyone at the company.
But what about the games? Of course, that’s another question that comes up. THQ says that the games currently in production—such as Metro: Last Light, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Homefront II—will not be affected by the bankruptcy. So, if you’re looking forward to any of those titles, then they’re still coming.
The question will now be on those projects which either aren’t far enough along to keep them safe, or which hadn’t been started yet. Where those titles and franchises go from here is an answer we don’t have just yet.
Update: THQ president Jason Rubin has now posted the following message to the gaming community:
Today THQ announced that it has secured an investor, a private equity firm named Clearlake Capital Group, who is interested in purchasing most of what you think makes up THQ: the teams that make the games (Relic, THQ Montreal, Vigil and Volition), THQ’s Intellectual Property (titles, source code, etc.), THQ’s contracts (like the ones with Crytek, South Park Digital Studios, 4A games, Obsidian, and Turtle Rock) and the support staff that are required to help the teams succeed.
In fact, Clearlake is even providing the company the money it needs to keep working on the products as the process plays itself out. And importantly, when the purchase is complete, Clearlake has committed to invest additional ample capital to let us finish the games we are making and continue making games going forward.
In short, they are investing in a new start for our company.
The sale needs to be completed through a Chapter 11 proceeding of the Bankruptcy code, which we filed today. Given the intense speculation that we have experienced in recent weeks and months, this news probably isn’t that surprising.
But what does “Chapter 11” mean? What will happen to the games you are expecting? The series you love? And what about the people and teams that make them?
The most important thing to understand is that Chapter 11 does not mean the end of the THQ story or the end of the titles you love. Quite the opposite is true, actually.
Chapter 11 is a safety net for U.S. companies. American Airlines is currently in Chapter 11 restructuring, yet I flew back and forth on that airline when I visited Volition two weeks ago. Donald Trump and his companies have been in Chapter 11 four times. You can add to that list household names such as Macy’s, Eddie Bauer, the Chicago Cubs, Chrysler, Delta Airlines, General Motors, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marvel Studios, and MGM, among many others.
MGM filed Chapter 11 two years ago, and this year it released “Skyfall” and “The Hobbit,” two of the biggest titles of the year. That’s what I mean when I say new start!
Our Chapter 11 process allows for other bidders to make competing offers for THQ. So while we are extremely excited about the Clearlake opportunity, we won’t be able to say that the deal is done for a month or so.
Rest assured that the goal throughout the sale process has been to preserve our teams and our products. So no matter what the outcome in 30 days, as long as we have accomplished this goal, I will be satisfied.
Whatever happens, the teams and products look likely to end up together and in good hands. That means you can still pre-order Metro: Last Light, Company of Heroes 2, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Our teams are still working on those titles as you read this, and all other rumored titles, like the fourth Saints Row, the Homefront sequel, and a lot more are also still in the works.
Finally, you might be asking, why would THQ file for Chapter 11 right before the holiday season? Admittedly, the timing is unfortunate. But as we announced a few weeks ago, we have a January 15 deadline approaching for our bank funding. So if you work backwards to allow the necessary time to complete a sale, you end up at this week. Since all of THQ’s worldwide employees are off for a week and a half of paid vacation starting Friday for the holidays and will return to work on January 2nd, it hardly matters anyway.
So THQ made headlines today – and I am sure there will be tons of click-grabbing headlines over the next month or so. But what matters to us is not what is happening to THQ right now, but what the company and its teams will make of ourselves after we complete the sale.
In short, the teams will be unburdened by the past and able to focus on what they should be focusing on — Making great games.
I’m excited about the future and hope to have more to report soon.
Feel free to tweet me @Jason_Rubin
–Jason Rubin, President of THQ Inc.