The year started on a sour note, as THQ entered liquidation and was picked apart by publishers across the games industry.
What followed was a lot of analysis on what was to blame for THQ’s demise. The popular consensus from the media was that to survive in this industry you either need to be a giant, such as EA or Activision, or a small, nimble business. The ‘mid-tier,’ the likes of THQ, just could not compete. Too big to move fast, too small to battle with the big boys.
But one man that was drafted in to rescue THQ in 2012, Jason Rubin, disagreed.
“All triple-A publishers have been under pressure, but THQ had every chance to survive had it not made massive mistakes,” he told us at the time.
“The mistakes that were made long before I joined, like the incredible losses attached to uDraw, sticking with children’s and casual titles far after mobile devices had killed the business, inferior titles like Homefront, and a generally inefficient approach to deal making, left the company with too much negative hanging on its books.
“THQ had to be restructured to survive, and the restructuring ended up in an asset sale rather than an acquisition. There are things to be said about challenges in the mid-tier triple-A publishing business, but I don’t think that conflating it with THQ’s experience is helpful.”
Indeed, the publishers that stepped in to acquire parts of THQ (with the notable exception of Ubisoft) were these ‘mid-tier’ publishers that are apparently doomed.
Crytek, Take-Two and Nordic Games were amongst the buyers, but the firm that benefitted the most was Koch Media’s Deep Silver publishing brand. The firm bought the Saints Row IP, that game’s studio Volition and the publishing rights to Metro: Last Light.
As a result, Deep Silver has moved from being a niche publisher, to one that has a number of big global brands. It has scored eight weeks at No.1 in the charts this year (with three different games – Metro, Saints Row and Dead Island), it has grown market share significantly and, best of all, it has hired a number of THQ’s former staff.
THQ and mid-tier publishing live on.