We’ve known that THQ‘s fate was in serious question ever since the first grumblings of financial trouble surfaced, and today, the other shoe has fallen. The scheduled auctioning-off of THQ’s studios and properties has been completed, and as was expected, the individual bids from rival publishers outmatched the lump sum proposal from Clearlake Capital.
What this means is new publishers for most of the studio’s properties, and that employees not claimed will be working their last days with THQ.
In a letter from THQ CEO Brian Farrell and President Jason Rubin to its employees (forwarded to Kotaku), the official auctioning and new parent companies of several studios was confirmed. Thanks to investment blog DDI, we know the winning bids.
Relic Entertainment, most notable for their work with Company of Heroes and the Warhammer license, has been acquired by Sega for $26 million – the highest price paid in the extensive bidding process. Koch Media purchased the Volition studio (makers of the Saints Row series) and the rights to the Metro franchise for $22.3 million and $5.8 million respectively. It’s hard to say what this means for the planned sequels to each, but expect big news from Koch Media’ video game arm, Deep Silver in the coming weeks. Especially since the company was willing to pay more than four times what Ubisoft was for the keys to S4ints Row (presumed name).
Crytek has acquired the rights to the Homefront series name outright for $500,000, with Homefront 2 already in production at their studio. Ubisoft chose not to pick up one of THQ’s third-person action franchises, instead purchasing THQ’s Montreal studio to bolster their own for $2.5 million, and the rights to the upcoming South Park: The Stick of Truth for $3.2 million. South Park studios had previously opposed a sale of any kind for the game, in development at Obsidian Entertainment, but apparently their motions failed. Given the publisher though, they should be in good hands.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the day is that according to both the company and sources, Vigil Games – and their attached Darksiders franchise – received no bids, and will continue to be part of the Chapter 11 proceedings. THQ maintains that they “will make every effort to find appropriate buyers, if possible” but perhaps things aren’t looking so good for Darksiders 3. It seems co-founder Joe Madureira’s departure may have soured more publishers than we had presumed.
Interesting tidbit: THQ’s unannounced ‘Evolve’ was purchased by Take-Two Interactive; we don’t know what it is, but the publisher paid $11 million for it, so consider us interested.
What will stand out to many is the complete absence of Electronic Arts and Activision, especially given the surprise success of Saints Row: The Third. The major publishers consistently fall victim to fan outrage and vilification for their deep pockets, but critics may end up eating their words if the next installments in these franchises suffer from a lackluster marketing campaign.
That’s plenty of information to digest, and it’s hard to know just how much of each studio will remain intact, or even working on their existing projects. We’d like to assume some autonomy will carry forward, but anyone familiar with the horror stories of the video game industry knows that might not be the case.
Those employees whose contract were not purchased by an outside party will either be let go or contacted directly over the next few days, with Farrell and Rubin ending their letter with words of thanks to all involved:
“It has been our privilege to work alongside the entire THQ team. While the company will cease to exist, we are heartened that the majority of our studios and games will continue under new ownership. We were hoping that the entire company would remain intact, but we expect to hear good news from each of the separate entities that will be operating as part of new organizations.
“For those THQ employees who are part of entities that are not included in the sale, we are confident that the talent you have displayed as part of THQ will be recognized as you take the next steps in your career.
“Thank you all for your dedication and for sharing your talent with the THQ team. We wish you the best of luck and hope you will keep in touch.”
The times, they are a-changing. We’ll keep you up to date as sales continue, and join the rest of THQ’s fans in hoping the best for those affected by the proceedings.
For now, which of these acquisitions and studio movements seem most promising to you? Is there one in particular that you have your doubts with? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.