THQ’s future was put into question last Saturday night and all through Sunday. A strong rumor from a well-respected person in the gaming industry doesn’t go by unnoticed. If you didn’t catch it as it began, it was easy to get overwhelmed with all the different reports. Something of this magnitude doesn’t get passed around lightly without causing serious doubt. Let’s take a look at what happened and what affect it could have in the future, assuming THQ is telling the truth.
Kevin Dent has been floating about the gaming industry for over 10 years now. His LinkedIn page describes his focus: “to help developers and content creators tell their story by driving deals and creating strategic visions.” This direction lead him to his current position as the head of IGDA Mobile Special Interests Group. IGDA, or the International Game Development Association, is a non-profit organization that helps out game developers. “My mission is to make games better,” Dent’s Twitter bio reads.
Clearly, Dent seems to be all for the growth of the industry, if he had something important to say, a lot of people would be listening. And they did when he lit a fuse with this tweet late Saturday night.
Warhammer 40K is an important franchise to THQ. Not only have the past real-time strategy games been successful, but Relic’s latest entry Space Marine was a strong influence on THQ’s sales the second quarter of its 2012 fiscal year (July through September), according to the CEO Brian Farrell it “exceeded expectations”.
As soon as Relic Entertainment finished Space Marine they were free to lend help to on the Warhammer 40K MMO Dark Millenium Online Vigil Games has been working on publicly since March 2007.
It’s important to understand just how much work goes into an MMO, and how much of a risk it is. Massively is in the name, these games have to be huge to accommodate thousands of players at a time. Typically they have a lengthy leveling experience to introduce players to the world, and end-game content with high-level enemies that require groups to take down. It’s a lot of assets and design work, and that’s if you want to mimic what Blizzard has already done with World of Warcraft. EA spent roughly $125-$200 million on Star Wars: The Old Republic, it garnered more than a few pre-orders and hasn’t had any signs of dropping in player count, yet. WoW may be slightly dropping, but it still holds a large active player count; the market has very little room for alternatives.
So why cancel something that’s been in development for at least five years? Dent offered this as a potential reason:
He’s referring to early December last year when THQ lowered its earning forecast down approximately 25 percent due to the uDraw tablets unsuccessful performance during the third quarter of its 2012 fiscal year. He mentions the month of June because that’s when THQ’s second quarter ends.
I spent Sunday morning digging for more information as I wrote up a post for my personal blog. I found someone close to Relic that was willing to talk about the fate of Dark Millenium Online. The source claimed nothing had been said of its cancellations, even calling Dent’s original tweet “baseless”. Not long after, more reports of denials came in supporting my source’s comments.
Then the gravity of the situation grew, Dark Millenium Online was just the beginning according to Dent.
Dent’s alluding to THQ saving up money to potentially sell. Were THQ to go through with it, the future of the unannounced project former Assassin Creed designer Patrice Désilets is working on in the new Montreal-based studio, the joint operation of Crytek and Kaos Studios on a Homefront sequel, and possibly many other games would be cut short. For someone like Dent to feel confident enough to say that a big publisher like THQ is planning on selling, his sources must have been incredibly trustworthy.
A few hours later, Kotaku published an official statement from THQ.
“THQ has not cancelled its 2014 line-up, and has not made any decisions regarding the planned MMO. As part of the ongoing review of our business, we have made decisions to ensure that the company is strategically addressing the most attractive markets. As we have previously announced, we have dramatically reduced our commitment to the kids’ boxed games sector which leads to a significantly more focused release schedule moving forward. Our slate for calendar 2012 and beyond is focused on high-quality core games and continues to build our digital platform and business. We are excited for our pipeline of original and high-quality content along with our relationships with some of the best talent in the industry.
Additionally, we are thrilled with the great performance of Saints Row: The Third, which on a like for like period in North America has tripled in sell-through from Saints Row 2. In addition, WWE ’12’s worldwide sell-through sales are up almost 40% year-over-year for the same sales period with fewer platforms. According to NPD, for the month of December and the 2011 year, THQ was the #5 publisher overall, #4 third party, with reported sell through growing over 18% in a market that was down almost 6%. And coming up next, we have two great titles for the first half of the year including UFC Undisputed 3 and Darksiders 2.”
Through careful wording, THQ’s statement maneuvers around a definitive answer for Dark Millenium Online, it simply says “not made any decisions”. THQ wanted to quell the rumors, a denial doesn’t necessarily mean nothing will happen to the MMO in the future. As for the 2014 cancellations, THQ comes off firm, but again, it doesn’t mean that some games won’t be cut from the roster.
It could have gotten a lot worse if THQ never issued a statement, it did, and have caused the rumors to die down to a low simmer. Dent still believes what he heard, and he’s right to do so, we haven’t heard enough solid evidence that Dark Millenium Online or any other games won’t be cancelled eventually. For now, we have to wait and see. We still have games like Metro: Last Light, Darksiders 2, the newly announced South Park game, Guillermo del Toro’s inSANE, Devil’s Third and Saints Row 4. I don’t even want to know what this world would be like without another Saints Row.