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THQ’s win-win situation

Ben Parfitt
THQ’s win-win situation
If you were feeling ungenerous you could try to argue that winning one MCV Sales Team Award might just be a fluke. No doubt that’s what THQ’s competitors will be telling themselves (including fellow nominees EA, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Ubisoft).

Winning the award for two years running, however, is altogether more difficult to dismiss.

“I think it’s an amazing achievement and it is nice to know our customers appreciate the way we do business,” says James Dixon, the company’s sales director.

“I am personally very proud of my team and also the rest of the people at THQ for giving us the tools to go and do our jobs. I can’t comment on why we won, all I can say is we will continue to work with our customers to maximise the opportunities for both parties.”

It’s an achievement that points to the sort of settled continuity that a Premiership manager might cherish.

But if there’s one thing that characterises THQ’s output, it’s hardly consistency. Looking back on the company’s release schedule over the past 12 months or so, it’s product diversity that stands out. From Company of Heroes to WWE Smackdown vs RAW, and SpongeBob SquarePants to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the THQ release schedule covers all ends of the gaming spectrum – which, argues Dixon, throws up its own challenges.

“The great thing (or the worst thing) about this industry is that every release is unique so you must approach each one with a clear strategy,” he says.

“One of our biggest challenges has been that of education as some of our releases do not fit traditional sales patterns and therefore we must change the way we promote the games. Last year could be summed up for THQ by having both Cars and Saints Row at number one, which demonstrates THQ’s broad appeal. In fact, I would say that we probably have the most diverse product range in the industry right now.”

The challenge of pitching such a wide range of games is offset by the stability of THQ’s sales team (pictured above). Dixon has been with the company for three and a half years, and key members have been with him for much of that time, such as Rob Edwards, Annabel Wallace, Stephen Maclennan, Garrett Kirwin, Matt Glover and Alaina Gosling. But as Dixon points out:

“The sales team is part of a bigger publishing team and without the support of the rest of the business it could not have achieved this award for a second year in a row.”

This continuity and the support from the other parts of the business is of great help when it comes to the team’s strongest point: effective forecasting.

As Dixon puts it, “Good products help, but ultimately it comes down to the demand and availability of that product in store.” And THQ has a proven track record of managing this issue. “One of THQ’s strengths is its forecasting and analysis,” argues Dixon.

“We are pleased that we got most of those forecasts right, if not slightly conservative on some titles. Our ChartTrack position in calendar year ‘06 of clear number two speaks volumes in terms of our success.”

But will he be making any forecasts for the next 12 months? “We have come so far, but there is still much more we want to achieve,” he says. “We have an amazing line-up for this year, but more importantly we have some amazing plans on how we intend to bring that product to market.

“The biggest challenge for us is to ensure we continue to deliver on what we promise. Don’t worry, we will be back at the MCV Awards next year.” Which, given that track record of accuracy, might be a bit ominous for the competition.

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