If you’ve been keeping up with game world news, you’ll remember that back in December of last year THQ filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy — I’m no expert on bankruptcy laws but from my understanding this basically means a company can attempt to restructure its assets rather than selling them all off to pay its lenders back. The lender in this instance was Wells Fargo, which gave THQ a $50 million loan THQ defaulted on.
THQ fought to prevent this bankruptcy by offering the Humble Bundle back in November, which was notable for being the first bundle featuring AAA games as opposed to the usual indie bundle. This bundle included eight games: Darksiders, Metro 2033, Red Faction: Armageddon & three Company of Heroes games were originally included while Saints Row: The Third, Titan Quest & Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War were added later for people who had purchased the bundle for more than the average price. Overall, an impressive line-up of games. And the bundle did fairly well. It brought in $2.4 million within the first day of its release, eventually totaling over $5 million.
Of course, the observant reader will notice this barely makes a dent in what THQ owed, & they officially announced bankruptcy on December 19. On Tuesday they held an auction to sell off their studios.
- Sega purchased Relic Entertainment, best known for its Company of Heroes & Warhammer 40,000 series. Company of Heroes 2, which was in development prior to the bankruptcy, is still scheduled for 2013.
- Koch Media purchased Volition, the developers behind the Saints Row & Red Faction games. Koch Media is a German publisher who has published or co-published such games as Catherine, Dead Island, Gothic 3 & S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky. Koch Media has set up the brand name Deep Silver to specifically publish Volition’s future games.
- Ubisoft purchased THQ Montreal. This is THQ’s largest studio, but Ubisoft has stated they’re not sure yet how the studio will be incorporated into the rest of the company
Several independent IP’s were purchased as well.
- Take-Two Interactive outbid Turtle Rock Studios (behind the Left 4 Dead series) for the new Evolve IP. Evolve is still very early in development & the only information on it is it’s a cooperative shooter. But with Take-Two’s track record including the Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock & Civilization series, I think it’s safe to say they have the manpower to make great games.
- Koch Media purchased the Metro franchise, including the upcoming Metro: Last Light, which is still set to be released in the first quarter of 2013.
- Crytek, who was already partnering with THQ to make Homefront 2, has purchased the full rights to the franchise.
- Ubisoft has attempted to purchase the South Park: Stick of Truth IP, but South Park Studios has objected to the sale of its property. I read the legal document & the objection seems to be on the grounds that South Park Studio’s contract for the game was exclusively for THQ & therefore can’t be sold to another studio. However, THQ is claiming that because the rights were exclusive to them, they’re have the sole right to decide what to do with it. Personally, I don’t see why South Park Studios is making such a fuss. The game is set to release in less than two months, so it must be more or less finished. I would think that the terms of the contract would transfer over to Ubisoft. Gamers will just have to wait & see (I’m not that concerned because I don’t like South Park therefore I don’t care about any of its games).
Aside from these studios & IP’s, everything else at THQ is in the bankruptcy. This includes Vigil Games & the Darksiders franchise. However, there are rumors that Take-Two Interactive may be purchasing the rights to the WWE franchise, & the CEO of Platinum Games (makers of Bayonetta & the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) is interesting in purchasing the Darksiders franchise.
Sadly, this bankruptcy also means of lot of people being laid off. Even those who are part of the studios or projects being bought may not continue with their new companies. In a letter to their employees, CEO Brian Farrell and President Jason Rubin said they expected most employees of sold properties will be offered jobs by their new owners but warned that not everyone will be picked up and that the terms of employment for those that are may well be different. I hope these new publishers will keep as many people around as possible. Not only does it mean less unemployed, it makes good business sense to keep people who are working on current projects around as well as people who have worked on the previous projects that you’re hoping to continue.
On a personal level, it’s always sad to see a publishers, or any business really, that’s been around so long go under. But I was surprised at how few THQ games I’ve actually played once I started looking at their list of games. I’ve played the original Home Alone game (well, I say “played,” but I never made it past the first level), Titan Quest, Saints Row 2 & 3. Still, the big games seem to have been purchased in one fashion or another by strong publishers.