THQ Loses CFO, Gains Mysterious Financial Backer

By Nathan Grayson on November 22nd, 2012 at 9:00 am.

The sun represents hope or something, I guess.

THQ, if you didn’t know (hint: you did), is in some rather deep water. Not only has it opted to delay a whole mess of games in the wake of Darksiders II’s not-quite-megaton splash, it’s also in a teensy bit of debt. By which I of course mean $50 million – using “teensy bit” as a term relative to all the money ever printed in the whole of human history. But things may not be quite as dire as they seem. Sure, another high-level exec – this time CFO Paul Pucino – has decided to skedaddle, but apparently someone with a fair deal of monetary sway might very well have THQ’s rapidly breaking back.

As of now, THQ has until January 15, 2013 before Wells Fargo breaks out the baseball bats and starts seeking its loan money, and a lack of major releases means the publisher can’t simply generate much-needed cash on its own. Hope, then, rests almost entirely on the shoulders of a particularly generous potential donor. Specifically, THQ claims that it’s “entered into exclusive negotiations with a financial sponsor regarding financing alternatives.”

Which isn’t really very specific at all. But naturally, THQ can’t name any names just yet, seeing as it’d just look silly if the deal fell through. And also it’d probably be completely devastating from a legal standpoint or whatever.

Regardless, here’s hoping for the best. The once impressively sizable publisher’s struggling, but not for a lack of great games. Darksiders II was as strong as a skull-faced man with American football teams for biceps, and the likes of Metro: Last Light, Company of Heroes 2, Saints Row 4, and Obsidian’s South Park RPG are still on the way. Also, there’s Homefront, but the main problem with Homefront is that it is Homefront.

But goodness, if most of those games never see the light of day or undergo major reworkings in the hands of other publishers, I’m pretty sure my heart will violently shatter into a million pieces, sending dagger-like bits of shrapnel into many innocent bystanders. And I don’t think anyone wants that.

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46 Comments »

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  1. gibb3h says:

    everyone loves an underdog

  2. Davie says:

    It is very good to hear they’re not completely dead in the water. Relic and Volition are far, far too good to lose or get shunted to another publisher.

  3. SuicideKing says:

    Volition should get published by Valve…they’ve had really bad luck, with both Interplay and THQ.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      I shudder to think what EA would do with the Homeworld IP….

      • Raiyan 1.0 says:

        Dear lord, I just had a glimpse of a Facebook-tied Homeworld game, complete with chibi ships and microtransactions… I think I’m going to huuurrlrfqwHf’iffgne’gp

      • LionsPhil says:

        Homeworld was Relic, published by Sierra?

        Volition would be FreeSpace/Red Faction/Saints Row.

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          Jackablade says:

          Just swap the words Homeworld to Freespace and you’ll be fine, by which I mean suicidally depressed.

        • Soulless says:

          Doesn’t Relic wholly own the Homeworld IP now? I thought I read that THQ bought it off Sierra and gifted it to Relic. Or was that just wishful thinking and fever dreams?

          • NinjaTurdles says:

            I thought Homeworld was tied up with some IP lawyers before Relic managed to acquire it. Relic hinted at Homeworld 3 but i guess nothing came of it :/

          • CMaster says:

            Relic are in turn wholly owned by THQ though, so as the fate of the parent company goes, so does the subsidiaries (unless someone buys them from the administrators after a collapse)

      • bernlin2000 says:

        I shudder to think of EA handling anything but sport franchises these days…their money machine destroys all creativity and innovative gaming

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, Valve are more a distributor than publisher, but I sure do hope Volition don’t get put through the ringer as part of all this because they’ve done some good work.

    • bernlin2000 says:

      And Relic needs to go to? I can’t think of anyhow but Blizzard that makes RTS games anymore :(

  4. Spoon Of Doom says:

    It breaks my heart to see THQ struggling so hard. Not everything they do is perfect, but they usually do good work and some of their games/franchises are real gems, and I’d argue their average quality is higher than that of a lot of other companies out there. I don’t understand why the market punishes them for that.

    • kevmscotland says:

      Completely agree.

      Unlike most publishers, their willing to take chances on new franchises etc aswell.

    • scatterbrainless says:

      As one of the “hate publishers, treasure devs” frothing, irrational internet horde, I second this. THQ is one of the few publishers I don’t actively detest, and never seem intent on over-monetizing or policing their customers.

  5. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    Who publishes the publishmen?

  6. MDefender says:

    Wouldn’t have minded someone else handling warhammer games, honestly. Although the chance that they’d be better is admittedly slim.

  7. Carbonated Dan says:

    please metro, don’t die

  8. Steven Hutton says:

    By FAR the biggest downside to THQ’s financial straits. BY FAR! Is that they didn’t have the cash to green light a sequel to Space Marine.

    That was a game that was almost there. It was the seed of a truly great game. It was a bit rough around the edges in places but it was a Mass Effect 2 or an Assassins Creed 2 waiting to happen.

    • TormDK says:

      Agreed.

      They could take Space Marine 2 so many good Places, and grow fat and lax from all the Money they would earn on selling us chapter skins.

      Not to mention Dawn of War 3 (Which also needs to be in Development right now!)

    • subedii says:

      Yeah I agree. It wasn’t the best game. Personally I would’ve felt happier spending less than the 50% off I got it for in a Steam sale.

      At the same time though, it’s a game that has a tonne of potential to exploit if they fix out it’s rough patches.

      When it works, slamming into a horde of Orkz with chainsword and bolter, or thunder hammer and jump pack, just feels awesome.

  9. NinjaTurdles says:

    So what happens to IPs such as Homeworld when THQ eventually goes down under (I really hope they dont sell it to EA)? I wanted Homeworld 3 :(

  10. rustybroomhandle says:

    There is also a weird little rumour going around about a Humble THQ Bundle.

  11. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    I’m not generally a fan of huge publishers, and while I don’t particularly like THQ after reading about some of what went on with the Homeworld development (linked a few weeks back on the Sunday Papers) I do really like the studios working for them, and feel like the world of AAA games could really use some of what Relic, Volition and the rest bring to the table. Volition’s games especially always feel like a breath of fresh air.

    • NinjaTurdles says:

      Tried to find the link to the Homeworld article. I think my search fu is rusty. Care to link it here for the lazy?

  12. soapmak3r says:

    It’s sad to see these guys struggle so much. They are definitely one of the best publishers out there. If this were happening to either EA or Activision I’d probably be happy enough though…Karma, sort it out!

  13. Xocrates says:

    “Darksiders II was as strong as a skull-faced man with American football teams for biceps”

    That’s the thing isn’t it, it really really wasn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved the game, but even discounting the atrocious PC port and mercenary launch DLC tactics, it still had loads of design problems – many of which the first game didn’t suffer from – and had the bizarre problem of feeling like it had been cut in half while most of the remaining content felt like padding.

    Never mind the fact that THQ expected the game to outsell the original by a fair margin, the game, while solid and ambitious, wasn’t in a condition where it would ever save them financially.

  14. Howard says:

    Did Darksiders 2 actually *fail*, as in not-break-even? If so ( or even if it didn’t do as well as hoped) does anyone know why? That game is by far the most fun I’ve had this year on my PC so it not being well received confuses me.

    • Xocrates says:

      The original game sold around 1.5 million (and it was the better, if less conceptually interesting, game), Darksiders 2 needed to sell 2 million just to break even.

      Frankly, I’m still amazed THQ expected the game to outsell the first by such a large margin.

      • TormDK says:

        It’s on steam sale right now, so the call to arms is to support THQ if we haven’t already. (I had a preorder)

      • Howard says:

        I’ve heard that a lot, that the first is better, but I have to disagree. The first was a somewhat clumsy attempt and was, for me at least, just damned boring and laborious. The sequel was just better in every way as far as I am concerned – a much more polished and enjoyable experience.

        • Xocrates says:

          Was it better or did you just liked it better?

          Because quite frankly I cannot see a single feature from the first game that would cause it to be “boring an laborious” that wasn’t in the sequel. Heck Darksiders 2 was notoriously slow and padded.

          • Howard says:

            I think it was genuinely better and I cannot understand any accusation that DS2 was so low or padded. It had a lot of content to be sure but never once was I bored. If we are going to start criticising games for actually having content (not saying you are) then I really want off this world.

            DS2 took all that DS1 had and just made it better and faster. War is a fat, heavy character with slow attacks and grindingly slow movement. The move to Death transformed the game for me. The Prince of Persia platforming and the combo-centric combat made it a joy to play, even in the longest and hardest fights. Add to that the change in looks, as commented on above, and it was on to a winner.

            I am in no way saying that DS1 is bad (well, I don’t like it much which is why I was surprised by my love of DS2) but to me, DS2 is just better in every way

          • Xocrates says:

            Actually, I criticize games for having content all the time :P The quality of the content matters, obviously, but I did play plenty of games that I would consider better if they were shorter or had cut out some of the crappier content.

            And to be fair, DS2 does not have BAD content, but it does have a lot of pointless one. The realm of the dead in particular is essentially nothing but padding (and the game pretty much acknowledges this).
            This isn’t a problem if you’re playing for the sake of it and enjoying yourself, but can be a problem if you actually want to feel like you’re progressing. DS1 made you feel like you were progressing both the plot and the character as you completed dungeons, while DS2 just kept moving the goalposts.

            However I can fully accept that you liked the feel of the game better, and I can accept that from your perspective it was a better game, but personally I preferred the feel and pacing of the first one.

        • Flint says:

          The first one is better in terms of narrative, characters and general atmosphere. It’s a strongly designed game through and through with a clear, cohesive direction and setting, where as DS2 feels like a bunch of ideas and setpieces cobbled together, with the plot hastily written in five minutes before deadline and dialogue and characters completely forgettable. Often it feels like you’re not playing a sequel to Darksiders to begin with because the connections between the games begin and end with namedropping War once every five hours. Although, that said, I do prefer the visual look in DS2 but that’s just my general preference for nature-centric settings. On the other hand, I think the mechanics are stronger in DS2. They’ve finetuned the bits from DS1, the skill tree and equipment system are great additions and overall it feels better to handle, perhaps because Death is a more agile character to begin with.

          I’d love a combination of the strengths of both games and ideally that’d be DS3, but with THQ’s dire straits and how the first two games haven’t performed as expected, I fear that might never be.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      They released Darksiders, then they released Space Marine which was simply Darksiders with big guns and a zoom option, then they released Darksiders 2 which was Darksiders with a different-yet-same lead character and crappy DLC, yet somehow they expected Darksiders 2 to do well.

  15. coffeetable says:

    What broke their back wasn’t so much Darksiders as it was this monstrosity:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDraw

    1.4 million units unsold. Who the hell could look at the CAD model for that thing and think it’d sell 1.4 million?

    • TaroYamada says:

      Yup. It was uDraw and de blob 2 bombing that brought THQ to their knees.

  16. TaroYamada says:

    Homefront 2 has potential! It’s being made by Crytek now!

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I think I’d rather see crytek doing something of their own, maybe an open world. It’s time they branched out from crisis and hi-tec shooters I think. Focus on the worlds. Fantasy weapons Tech is good and its a strength of crytek, but I would love to see them do something blade runnery with cryengine 3

      EDIT: Reading the OP back I now have a feeling my sarcasm detector is faulty today

  17. Tei says:

    THQ only have to repackage the uDRAW to look as similar as possible to the Wii-U and will make a fortune on parents alone.

  18. CMaster says:

    $50 million debt on a turnover of about $600 million doesn’t really sound like that big a deal.
    I’m guessing there’s more to the problems than that.