Back by popular demand (or lack there of) it’s Chris’ Controversial Corner. This entry come as the result of some bad news involving a game series I am quite fond of. Rather than spoil things here, lets get right to it. In recent years, THQ has gone from a struggling third party publisher with only a handful of mainstream titles, to a much more dominant position. With their UFC license, they created one of the finest sports/fighting games around, and they even reinvigorated their WWE games as well. They have also managed to crack into the gangster sandbox shooter market with the now highly successful Saints Row series. Fans of Warhammer 40k have been treated to some of the finest RTS games out there, let alone set in their universe, and are even receiving an MMO set in the universe. To top it all off they managed a successful new entry in the fan favorite Red Faction series with Guerrilla, as well as release successful new franchises such as Metro 2033, Darksiders, and the poorly received but financially successful Homefront. With a track record like that, it is no wonder why THQ is doing as well as they are. Now however, it seems they are taking unnecessary chances and making some questionable moves with some of their best franchises. The question is, was it all a fluke, or does THQ really have a method to their madness.
The reason for this questioning of THQ’s motives comes from the publisher’s decision shelf the Red Faction series yet again. That’s right, after over five years of silence; Red Faction was successfully brought back, just to be shelved again two years later. The reason? THQ cited that lackluster first month sales contributed to a $38.4 millionquarterly loss. THQ CEO Brian Farrell went on to tell investors,
“Given that the title now in two successive versions has just found a niche, we do not intend to carry forward with that franchise in any meaningful way.”
A niche huh? That explains why Guerrilla went on to sell well over one million units and was praised by both fans and critics for its fun, open world mayhem. Perhaps the reason for the drop in sales, as stated in our review, is that Armageddon strays too far from Guerrilla. It practically throws away what made it popular, and opts for an inferior linear nature and less emphasis on destruction. Sure first month sales might be bad, but that isn’t any reason to immediately shelf the game.
Then again, Volition should be luck they weren’t closed. Despite the good sales of Homefront, its developer, Kaos Studios, was closed shortly after the game’s release. Shut down, even with work on the sequel already begun. There is crazy, then there’s that. Yes, Homefront could have used some more work and another coat of polish, but it wasn’t terrible per say. It seemed safe to assume that Kaos knew the path to success from that point, but then THQ said, “Do you know what happens when you assume?” Boom, Kaos closed. Both successful series, both with strange consequences for their developers.
MX vs. ATV Alive also came under fire for being a “failed experiment” in the current generation of consoles. It seems like a good idea at the time, make a full MX vs. ATV game, retail it for $39.99, and offer tons of additional content at launch for those interested in expanding their vehicle or track selection all at a reasonable price. It sounded good, until the game released. It felt incomplete, leaving little desire to purchase the add-on content as it should have been included to complete the retail game. Yes, it was a failed experiment, but an unnecessary one. It was obvious that the MX vs. ATV series wasn’t the best series in THQ’s possession, and it made sense that they wanted to get more fans. The experiment was risky from the start. It was built on the idea that people wanted to buyDLC. Aside from the absolutely most popular games, most DLC is hated by consumers as they want their content on the disc. It was a good idea to sell it at a discounted price, but it should have been abundantly clear that there was not enough content on the disc. The experiment was built on unsound logic.
This isn’t to say that THQ is doomed or anything like that. They have Warhammer 40k Space Marine coming later this summer, as well as the aforementioned MMO. We can also expect a new UFC game as well as Metro Last Light and Darksiders 2 next year. This isn’t a question of the caliber of their upcoming titles though; it is a question of their decision making. If the next Metro sells poorly its first month will its studio be shut down, or will the series be shelved? What about Darksiders? Even more important, will gamers and stockholders support the Red Faction move or similar moves in the future? We’ll find out soon, but hopefully THQ does not repeat these mistakes and continues its recent reputation of excellent games.