Though it hasn’t exactly been a banner couple of years for publisher THQ, no one thinks that the company will be disappearing off the face of the earth anytime soon; no one except for Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick. Speaking at an MIT Business in Gaming conference, Zelnick spoke candidly about the floundering publisher, and even dished some dirt on his own company, and concluded his comparison with a claim that THQ will not be around in six months time.
Obviously, as with many publishers, it’s been a rough couple of years as the gaming public’s tastes continue to evolve, but in Zelnick’s mind THQ’s biggest crime was its strong offering of licensed content. From WWE to UFC to Nickelodeon, THQ’s slate has always been populated with games based on extremely popular properties.
Unfortunately, when working with licensed content, as Zelnick explains, license holders must constantly renegotiate contracts, and inevitably give up more and more of the profits. THQ has simply hit a point where its licensed properties aren’t nearly as lucrative as they once were. Couple that with the recent failure of their uDraw experiment, and it’s easy to see why Zelnick might think THQ is going under.
Sure, games like Warhammer 40K: Space Marine can still turn a profit for the publisher, but with each success comes the knowledge that the next re-up for a contract will cost that much more. This pattern of focusing mainly on licensed properties has put THQ in the downward spiral they’re in, one that Zelnick believes won’t last very long.
Zelnick also went on to criticize the quality of some of THQ’s titles, but wouldn’t name specific examples. That’s the key difference between THQ and Take-Two for Zelnick, who admits that Take-Two hasn’t exactly been the picture of success recently, the quality of the games.
“The most important difference is quality. Take-Two has the highest quality ratings among third-party publishers, according to Metacritic and most people in the industry. Quality really, really, really matters. THQ has had some good games, but their quality levels aren’t even remotely … the quality hasn’t measured up.”
Still, the developer has games on its slate for both the remainder of this year (most notably Darksiders II and South Park: The Game) and next year, many of which are not licensed properties. If THQ can stick with the WWE, and also put out some original content like Guillermo Del Toro’s inSANE, then they will certainly be able to last past 2012 and into the future.
Do you think that THQ will continue to publish titles past 2012? Is it fair of another publisher’s CEO to project the failure of a competitor?