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Danny’s dark horse: Long game for THQ’s FY12 and beyond

Wednesday, 4 May 2011 13:46 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Last time we checked in on THQ, it was ditching its license-mill reputation, eyeing a top five spot and taking calculated gambles on new IP. This week, it’s down $136m and announcing “casual” titles. What happened? Nothing: this is THQ’s long game.

FY2011 Highlights

Overall loss of $136.1 million, down from $9 million in FY2010.

$44 million lost in fiscal Q4, Homefront’s release window.

Full rundown here.

The days of finding an upcoming kids’ movie, churning out a platformer and rolling in the green are over. The money has run out of the license market. Big sports titles – of which THQ has two – and massive transmedia opportunities like Harry Potter – which it doesn’t have – are the last dregs of what was once one of the surest bets in the games industry.

This left THQ – a company which let its core development lapse – in a difficult position. But faced with the evolutionary adage “adapt or die,” THQ proved its not ready for the tar pits just yet and launched a daring double-pronged attack.

At the spear head of one is Danny Bilson, that rarest of beasts – a gaming executive who actually loves games.

Bilson’s bid
As VP of core games, Bilson, who joined THQ in 2008, is aptly titled and positioned. He wants the core dollar, the loyalty of gamers who fall over themselves to pay for big, quality titles. He wants to get it by crafting solid, new gaming experiences. What’s not to like?

We’ve already seen one unusual dividend from this strategy: Homefront. Bilson’s too savvy (and investor-wary) to throw all his eggs in one basket, but he knows it’s only by experimenting with new IP and relevant, modern gaming styles that he can woo back the hardcore gamer.

Despite disappointing critical reception, Homefront has clearly performed well enough that it’s ready to take another go. It will learn from criticism – of a short single-player campaign and buggy multiplayer – and do better next time; in fact, ongoing multiplayer support and rapid post-launch fixes have already put the publisher ahead of the pack in after-sales support.

THQ took a hit this quarter, but it’s a hit it was expecting – an off-year. You can’t turn around and start churning out triple A releases overnight, and a glance over THQ’s FY 2012 and 2013 schedule shows its confidence in the Hollywood producer turned gamer-in-power paying dividends.

The latest Red faction: Armageddon trailer.

FY 2013
In June, Red Faction: Armageddon – a tried-and-true property with a vocal PC fanbase in addition to console credit – kicks off what is to be a string of strong releases piling up into a two-year long jackpot.

Relic’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine drops in August, and it’s not hard to see why hype is already building. The studio is better known for its strategy stylings, but it knows the complicated 40K canon backwards, and the crowd behind 6 million Dawn of War sales will likely make the jump to third-person action without much trouble.

Saints Row: The Third arrives in time for the critical holiday period, filling an expected continuing gap in the GTA schedule with its unique take on the open-world crime genre. This is a franchise with more weight behind it than the unbelievers give it credit for, and with a strong marketing push and good timing, this iteration may garner the spotlight the series deserves.

In March 2012, we’ll see another entry in the UFC license. This unrivalled star of the MMA world is rapidly becoming one of the most recognised sports licenses thanks to strong IP control, and while that’s paying off in THQ’s favour, a serious treatment of the genre certainly helps.

The WWE license is less certain, as the sequel-grinding took a little of the lustre from it, but again, THQ’s commitment to putting the polish back in has redeemed the series, and a new instalment due over the holiday season could be a strong bet. The two licenses have shipped over 7 million units between them.

After this, things get a bit hazier in terms of dates, but we do know that FY 2013 – which runs until April, 2012 – will serve up some heavy hitters. Sequels Darksiders 2 and Metro: Last Light join the second, more distinct Warhammer MMO attempt, Dark Millennium Online.

On top of that, we have a couple of wild cards: Itagaki’s Devil’s Third, a new action IP still only vaguely detailed, and whatever it is they’re up to at the newly-opened THQ Montreal studio – you know, the one headed by Assassin’s Creed director Patrice Désilets – which has been poaching high ranked Ubisoft staffers.

The fancy dance
If the list above has you even mildly intrigued at this early stage, then the core division is set. But you can’t devote your entire company to years developing massive, single titles and expect investors to hang on, and as with any major publisher, THQ is leashed to them.

That’s not to say the rest of its portfolio is dutiful offerings – Spongebob Squarepants, Kung Fu Panda and Barbie tie-ins are, indeed, likely to result in padding for the bargain-bin, but they’re also certain to bring quick cash injections while we wait out core development.

In the meantime, THQ is dancing some fancy steps. Its uDraw peripheral is about to uncouple from its dying mothership, the Wii, in a new, sleeker form designed for the major platforms, with six new games on the way. The sales performance of this little beauty has been gratifying, and its simple, low-cost appeal might well carry over where other peripherals have failed.

The upcoming MX vs ATV: Alive shows the publisher is highly aware of the digital revolution, and is moving with the times. Priced $20 below standard retail, the racer will launch with masses of DLC and a “long shadow” of more to come.

On top of traditional content packs, THQ is pushing for the micro-transaction pay-off, capitalising on our desire for differentiation with customisation options. Not only does it fail to alienate the pre-owner purchaser the way the online pass system does, it might even get some money out of him – or discourage users from selling on in the first place.

A focus on 3DS and Kinect, as well as Facebook titles, shows THQ is exploring its options in the rapidly bloating casual and social spaces, as well.

THQ’s is a broad plan. Ignore the losses. There’s a long way to go yet.

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3 Comments

  1. AHA-Lambda

    I think that says alot about the AAA industry really O_o

    THQ performed better than most other fiscal years due to homefronts massive – albeit undeserved – success and they lose WAAAAAAYYYY more money than usual O____o

    #1 4 years ago
  2. drewbles82

    saints row being fav from them. definately needed some fun open world action that GTA lost

    #2 4 years ago
  3. StolenGlory

    Didn’t THQ head-honcho Brian Farrell, also reveal that they were ‘Excited’ to be working on Project Cafe/Wii 2? Surely some sort of indication that they’ll have something to show at E3?

    http://www.industrygamers.com/news/wii-2-excites-thq-boss/

    #3 4 years ago

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  • Destiny House of Wolves: everything you need to know about gear upgrades & The Reef

    Bungie revealed plenty of important details in last night’s Destiny stream. Let’s go over everything. Alex wants to make sure you don’t miss any of the information revealed yesterday. Most of it affects all Destiny players too, even those who don’t intend on buying House of Wolves. During the first stream, Bungie explained the armour […]

  • Mod-friendly Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access in May

    Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access next month for a full release, Stardok has announced. The developer called the game the “largest and most diverse strategy sandbox to date,” as players have a variety of tools such as diplomatic treaties to resource exchanges, and United Planets resolutions to hundreds of research directions for […]

  • Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim is out next week on PC – here’s the pre-order trailer

    Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim will be released next week on PC, and today, we have a pre-order trailer for you. The game will be made available on April 28 for $19.99/€17.99/£13.99 on GOG, the Humble Store and Steam. Along with improvements over the original PSP version, it will contain less backtracking, controller support […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – full gear set up to level 34 in PvP and PvE, upgrades, more

    The Destiny: House of Wolves livestream this afternoon was chock full of information. Read onward for our full report. According to Bungie, Petra Venj, who serves the Queen, is the main story agent who leads the player through the main series of quests. Players who complete bounties will be able to level up in her […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – watch the livestream right here

    Bungie will host a Destiny: House of Wolves livestream at 2pm EDT today, and you can watch it right here. Watch live video from Bungie on www.twitch.tv The stream will introduce the new social space, The Reef, as well as gear upgrade paths. House of Wolves contains new Strike missions, The Prison of Elders three-player […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 22 team includes Barcelona, Chelsea players

    This week’s FIFA 15 Team of the Week is now available for FIFA Ultimate Team players. Each team member, as with previous weeks, is selected base on the previous weekend’s matches. Here’s the list of players now available: Starting GK: Claudio Bravo – FC Barcelona (Spain) CB: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus (Italy) CB: Ömer Toprak […]

  • Sony’s Spring Fever Sale winds down with Shovel Knight and Call of Duty discounts

    It’s the final week of Sony’s Spring Fever Sale which means more games have been added to the mix. Shovel Knight, which launches today is one offer, and the rest are all Cal of Duty titles. The Taken movie series is on sale as well. With Shovel Knight available today on PlayStation 3, PS4 and […]

  • Drivers for Xbox controllers, voice messages, more features available in Xbox One preview

    Microsoft has announced new features coming to Xbox One and the Xbox App on Windows 10 through the preview program this month. Some of the new features have been requested by the community for both Xbox One and Xbox One SmartGlass. Here’s what to expect, straight from the horse’s mouth: Xbox on Windows 10 Game […]

  • Total War: Warhammer has been announced for PC, Mac, SteamOS

    Total War: Warhammer has been announced after previous teases from The Creative Assembly touched upon it. The game will contain “gigantic monsters, flying creatures, legendary heroes and storms of magical power.” It is also the first in a trilogy which includes two additional standalone titles and extra content packs. It will feature thousands of warriors […]

  • This video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features a quest from the prologue

    A new video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, showing off the Precious Cargo quest contained in the game’s prologue. The quest tasks Geralt with helping a merchant retrieve a mysterious box from the swamps. The scene looks familiar, but we’ve seen so many videos for the game it’s hard to tell […]

  • Limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online kicks off tomorrow on consoles

    The limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tomorrow, and Sony has provided details on the tester for those who’ve been invited to participate. The beta test contains the full version of the game and will run from April 23-27, and will start and […]

  • Dying Light debuts in second place on Media Create charts

    Techland’s Dying Light made its debut in Japan lats week, coming in a respectable second place behind Nintendo’s Girls Mode 3: Kirakira Code. The zombie shooter sold 25,530 units on PlayStation 4, while the top earner for the week moved a little over 55,000 units on 3DS. Another western release when landed on the chart, […]

  • Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven will release in the west this June

    Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven has been given a release date by XSEED Games, which announced the localization back in February. The title will launch for 3DS in North America on June 2 digitally and through retail. It will be an eShop only title in Europe and Australia when it releases on June 4. A […]

  • This Overlord video teases four new faces of evil

    A new Overlord game is in the works, going by the previous teasing and this video – which teases the possibility of four-payer co-op. Or just four characters to choose from. We don’t know just yet – all we know is the team is asking you to “join the fellowship.” A new entry in the […]

  • GTA movie will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar’s Sam Houser, the BBC confirms

    The GTA movie Game Changer will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar co-founder and president Sam Houser, theBBC has confirmed. The BBC also confirmed Bill Paxton will play Jack Thompson, a role Paxton already confirmed last week when speaking with Deadline. Here’s the synopsis per the BBC: “Conceived for an adult audience, this special 90-minute drama […]

  • Take a look at Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode

    Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode has received a trailer today. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold will come with two modes, Classic and Story. Classic Mode was trailered today and in it, you’ll get to make your party by choosing from 13 classes. You’ll be able to customise them too using the character creation tool. Revamped […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows to come with new challenge mode

    Shovel Knight’s upcoming expansion Plague of Shadows will bring with it a new challenge mode. Shovel Knight developer Yacht Club Games has revealed the challenge mode, one of the new additions coming to the game with the free Plague of Shadows expansion. “Are you more into digging than distillation? Already have your Feats book long […]

  • Nvidia releases complete graphical guide for GTA 5

    Those with GeForce cards will be happy to know that Nvidia has released a comprehensive graphical tweaks guide for GTA 5. Nvidia usually produces graphical guides for the big AAA games, and GTA 5 is no different. Their guides offer in-depth coverage of each in-game setting, how much they affect framerate, if they can be […]

  • Cthulhu voodoo: why Bloodborne is the best Lovecraftian game

    Sherif Said tackles Bloodborne’s links to Lovecraftian horror, explaining why you should face the madness and immerse yourself in its lore. Spoilers inside. No other game could commit to its themes so religiously without feeling the need to compromise its vision and veer towards accessibility. Bloodborne stands tall above any game that dares attach itself […]

  • WWE 2K15 is coming to PC this year

    WWE 2K15 will make its way to PC this spring. WWE announced that WWE 2K15 will make its debut on PC in the spring. The game will be based on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, both of which came out in November. MyCareer and 2K Showaces modes are included, as well as all […]

  • GTA 5 PC: new mod adds snow to GTA Online

    If you’re looking to get some snow in your GTA Online, someone figured out a way. Modder ECB2 created a mod that works with GTA Online on PC. The mod is called “Snow in GTA Online” and it does what it says on the tin. YouTube channel imperfectplayers captured a video showing it in action. […]

  • Deals with Gold: Call of Duty edition

    Xbox Live Deals with Gold for the week of April 20 are now live with mostly Call of Duty games. Various Call of Duty games are on sale on Xbox One and Xbox 360 through Xbox Live this week. Indie games Never Alone and We Are Doomed managed to sneak in as well. With the […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: PSN sign in problems fixed in new patch

    Patch 1.03 is now live for Mortal Kombat X and it brings an end to the aggravating sing in issue encountered by some users on PS4. Mortal Kombat X 1.03 patch has been released. The patch fixes bug CE-34878-0, which affected the PlayStation 4 version. The bug caused users to have to log in and […]

  • GTA 5 PC: new patch fixes Windows Media Player issue, getting stuck in the clouds

    GTA 5 has received a new patch on PC to fix issues caused by the lack of Windows Media Player and getting stuck between online matches. Patch 335.1 is now available to all owners of GTA 5 on PC. The strange issue that affected those who didn’t have Windows Media Player installed, has been fixed. […]