Posted on November 6, 2012 AT 07:49pm
THQ’s financial woes haven’t exactly been clandestine. The once influential game publisher has been reduced to a shambling corpse compared to its former glory, and that’s a shame. THQ has published some of gaming’s most beloved franchises such as Saints Row, Red Faction and Darksiders. Sadly, not even those great games are enough to dig the company out of its fiscal despair. With news breaking earlier today that THQ is likely to be sold or declare bankruptcy; fans of the publishing giant fear the worst. While a company having to resort to such drastic measures is rarely good, this may end up being exactly what great studios like Volition and Relic need to be catapulted to the top of the game developer hierarchy.
Let me first say that I harbor no ill will towards THQ. I honestly hope they can turn things around and become the powerful publisher of years past. Some of my most cherished gaming experiences have come from THQ, and I hope to have many more in the future. What I say in the following paragraphs is strictly my opinion. That being said, the company hasn’t always been the best in its management practices. It’s made some fairly rash decisions to keep its head above water. Some of these decisions may not have been in the best interests of the developers or gamers. Example; back in 2009 at the start of THQ’s rapid decline, the publisher laid off hundreds of employees to streamline their costs. While the lay-offs are understandable, Brian Farrell (CEO) still took a multi-million dollar bonus later that same year (presumably stock options). Now, in 2012 Farrell and the board of directors have taken a pay cut, but it’s a little late to start trying to take one for the team.
A major point of concern is the repercussion that will be enacted upon the developers and gamers. Highly talented people are going to lose their jobs because of the state this company is in. This means these people aren’t going to work on your favorite games, and therefore the quality of the games will suffer. What’s worse is that THQ might be less inclined to experiment with their money. Less experimentation means less innovation. Less innovation means less intellectual properties. Less intellectual properties mean stagnation. Stagnation is one thing THQ definitely doesn’t need.
As Michael Pachter so eloquently put, “I think most games fall into two camps. Either someone is out to make a big profit (Call of Duty, Madden, Assassin’s Creed) and then there are guys that are looking at this [games] as art.” You can probably wager a guess which companies fall into which camp. It may be hard to see the silver lining in this situation, but there is one. Some publishers won’t release a game until it’s absolutely perfect in their eyes, and that’s commendable. Others just want to push out games as often as possible to maximize profits. THQ however, has historically dithered back and forth between these two camps.
A number of years ago THQ lived and died by its licensed kids games. They seemed to be in the mindset that they could pump out infinite movie games and always make a profit… they were wrong. Fast forward a few years and you’ve got an ambitious company that’s investing money into fantastic games like Metro 2033 and Red Faction Guerrilla, but then fail to market them. Developers slave away for countless hours to make quality titles, only to have them mismanaged by an inept marketing department. Now imagine these great development studios in the hands of someone like Take Two Interactive or Valve; companies that understand games and why people play them. Developers that work in the game industry, do so because they are creative individuals. When you pair these creative individuals with a publisher who is equally passionate about games, you don’t just get a “game”, you get art.
I could go on and on about the things THQ has done right and wrong over the years, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I have a lot of respect for the company and don’t want to come across as feeling otherwise. THQ has been a mainstay in the game industry for a long while, and I hope they continue to be. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m certain with great talent like Volition, Vigil and Relic leading the charge, THQ has a bright future ahead of them. The only question in my mind is what kind of sacrifices the company will have to make to reach that future.
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