I cannot comment about other publishers, but at THQ we set ourselves ambitious targets for 2006. We remained totally focused all year and closed it out for that number two publisher slot. The progress over the last three years is amazing; we’ve gone from number nine, to seven to four, and now number two whilst out-performing the UK games market significantly in each of these years.
But can you really sustain second spot in the publisher league table? Is that a fair expectation?
In any successful business it’s always more difficult to defend what you’ve got than to get there. We have never been a publisher to proclaim what we will do outside the hallowed halls of Woking Central but we do have the key ingredients: products, people and passion. What I can assure you is that there will be no hint of complacency; we will attend to our key objectives with the same level of professionalism as we always do and add up the numbers in December.
If you do stay second, is it feasible that you can close the gap on EA at all this year?
We don’t target any one publisher. Our competition is every Friday when all new releases arrive in-store and we see it as our job to lead consumers towards THQ products, whether new release or catalogue. EA has lost market share value in the past three years and THQ is only one of several companies that have taken a bit more of the pie. Our market share value growth over that period has gone from 4.3 per cent to 7.9 per cent – in real terms, that’s an 84 per cent improvement over the period.
What key titles from THQ should UK retail be looking forward to throughout the rest of the year – from spring to Q4?
Where do I start? Saints Row on Sony’s PlayStation 3, Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille, Frontlines: Fuel of War, Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights, Stuntman: Ignition, plus many more titles from our other leading brands are on their way too. It is probably the best ever product line-up that I have had the pleasure of working with.
Do you expect a ‘big year’ from some of your publishing rivals over the next 12 months?
It depends what how you measure ‘big’. I would be very surprised if most other serious publishers were not looking to grow their video games business throughout 2007. The market is looking at continued growth this year and I’m sure every CFO will be looking for some of that. They may have to tell their sales guys though.
Are you now the market leader in the movie licensing market – and why do you think your licensed products are so successful compared to some others?
We are the best at working a movie licence, no mistake. The science we apply internally through a very comprehensive and detailed data tracking system, allied to the analysis we have from all previous film releases, gives retailers a comfort factor that eliminates much of the guesswork. The retailers who work closest with us are the retailers who will win in the long run. This applies to all of our licensed properties – it’s always been about getting it less wrong, and the THQ system affords us that advantage.
What balance are you trying to achieve between new IP and licensed games – and is the importance of original IP overstated sometimes given sell-through?
Any games business paradigm should show you that the more successful new IP you have, the more financially successful you should be. After all, what’s the point in growing your market share if you cannot do it profitably? You can, of course, still have sell-through success with original IP as we have had recently; Destroy All Humans, Juiced, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes have all enjoyed number one status. You shouldn’t always look at the ephemeral success as a measurement of your IP; this should be your building block for the many other iterations to follow.
Do you feel there are any gaps/opportunities in THQ’s games portfolio in terms of genre or format presence? And what are you doing to remedy this?
Yes and we have a very active steering and greenlight committee that is constantly evaluating future concepts. The most important thing however, is not to run with a ‘me too’ concept for the wrong reasons. Also, your first task in any business is to protect what you do well. We will tick any un-ticked boxes for the correct reasons and at the correct time.