INTERVIEW: THQ

Ben Parfitt
INTERVIEW: THQ

You were promoted to senior VP for European publishing at the tail end of last year. How do you plan to grow THQ’s business in Europe?

We aim to continue the strategy we have successfully adopted over the past 12 months.

We’re developing fewer, bigger core games, maintain our lead in the fighting category, rationalise our kids portfolio and address how our titles appeal to the mass market and casual gamer audiences.

You’ve held several European roles during your 10 years at THQ. What lessons have you learned from your previous tenures in the area?

If you don’t succeed at first, try, try and try again. Maintaining very strong relationships with all of our key partners across the business along with a compelling and innovative product line-up is imperative to be successful.

What are the main challenges facing any publisher bringing video games to Europe?

Some consider Europe as a single territory. However, it is so much more than that, because it has so many different cultures, languages, consumer tastes, legal constraints, currencies and so on that it makes it a very complex market to apprehend.

A property that sells very well in Germany, for example, might not be nearly as successful elsewhere and vice versa for reasons which are often quite difficult to identify sometimes.

A constant challenge that has become much more prevalent recently is that of parallel importing and exporting – particularly with sterling being weak against the euro. This is posing some problems for publishers.

Another serious challenge we face in Europe is that of piracy, particularly in southern European territories.
 
How can the industry overcome these?

I believe it is important to cater to the local market needs as much as possible.

A great example of this is with our game Big Beach Sports, which we launched in June 2008 on the Nintendo Wii. We strategically positioned the cricket element at the forefront of our campaign communication and front of box for the UK SKU, and went on to sell over 800,000 in the UK market alone, highlighting the importance of adapting for local tastes.

What success did THQ see in 2009, and how does it plan to follow up on these?

UFC Undisputed 2009 was a huge success for THQ in 2009 selling over 3.5 million units worldwide. We have recently announced plans to launch UFC 2010 on May 28th across Europe with some great new features and innovations over 2009.

Our new IP Darksiders, which was launched in early January, has got off to a great start for us having sold over 1.2 million units to date. We also released Metro 2033 across Europe on March 19th and the title has already received critical acclaim across the media throughout Europe.

We are also hugely excited about the next offering from our New York-based studio Kaos who are developing Homefront, which is due for launch in the second half of our fiscal year 2011. 

What products failed to meet your expectations and what did you learn from these?

Due to rapidly changing market dynamics, our game World of Zoo did not fully live up to our expectations.
The casual games sector is extremely challenging.

Launching this in October did not allow us to be prominent on the shelves for the crucial gift-giving period, which came later in the year than usual due to the challenging economic climate worldwide.

We plan to approach this market differently next year.

What are your hopes for 2010?

I hope that the economic climate improves or, at worst, does not deteriorate any more – and that the market decline we experienced in 2009 in the video games sector is nothing but a distant memory.

What goals do you hope to achieve by the end of the year and how will you accomplish this?

We are well on our way to achieving the goals set for our fiscal year which ended on March 31, 2010. 

We have achieved a tremendous turnaround this year and are well positioned to increase revenues and profitability going forward. We have a strong product line-up for fiscal 2011 and we’re positioned for accelerated growth in fiscal 2012.

We plan to continue to prudently manage our cost structure while driving sales of our top titles with strong marketing programs. To accomplish this, we need the continued dedicated support and hard work of all of our employees.

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