Five things the industry can take away from THQ's financial fubar
We live in an era where the gaming community has become ridiculously jaded. In the past, gamers got stoked about the prospect of new IPs; we looked forward to a new entry in a long-running franchise; and we accepted innovation with open arms. Now, we've got folks who don't want to care about a new franchise, are burnt out on several series, and are afraid of companies coming up with new ideas for hardware. Knowing very well the type of industry this is, THQ still decided to take a couple of risks as well as make far too many familiar errors, and it’s now in the proverbial sh*t-hole.
Sure, those uDraw GameTablets were a great idea on the Wii in 2010, but as soon as they landed on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, they ended up costing THQ a hell of a lot more money than they were bringing in. Now the once successful publisher is struggling and fighting a horrid uphill battle, predictably filing for bankruptcy and being forced to come up with a new plan of action. But rather than looking at the negatives regarding this whole rotten situation, let's take a look at a few ways that THQ and several other publishers can learn from it. In other words, why is THQ's current location at the bottom of the crapper a good thing? (Expect more toilet references.)
Publishers, you’re now on notice
So there's, like, a warehouse somewhere full of these things that didn't sell ...
Imagine if toilets in public restrooms couldn't be flushed. Eventually, the damn things would overflow. That's exactly what happened with THQ. Companies have been releasing garbage for years — THQ just happened to be the guy who used the toilet last and ended up having waste spill all over his new dress shoes. It's a bad situation, but it helps put other companies on notice. Publishers can only release so much unwanted content before gamers stop buying it. uDraw was a great idea for the Wii, and it should have stayed on that platform. Publishers, market to the right audience. Don't think you can sell certain games and peripherals to everyone, because sooner or later, those dress shoes are going to get covered in someone else's breakfast. Hey, look! Hash browns!
Added pressure can be a good thing
Darksiders 2 isn't a massive sales success, but it's still a hell of a game.
During my college years, I always produced my best work when I waited until the last second. Whether I was writing a 10-page essay for creative writing or working on a massive project for my art class, the added pressure of doing things right before they were due helped me deliver some of the best writing and painting I could do at the time. Now, I'm not saying developers should work on games at the last minute. What I'm saying is that this added pressure is most definitely a good thing for THQ and other companies.
Saints Row: The Third was an excellent game. Darksiders 2 wasn’t the hit success it should’ve been, but it was still an incredible apocalyptic adventure. And Metro: Last Light? Well, that game has all the potential to be a stellar shooter. The pressure is on, and now THQ needs to work on making games that people care about, all the while delivering a satisfying final product. Upcoming titles such as Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto 5, and The Last of Us already have gamers' attention. Now they need to deliver the goods come launch.
Less shovelware, please
Remember 18 Wheels of Steel? Yeah, I don't either. Come to think of it, that's the problem here.
Shovelware will always be around — there's just no stopping it. That doesn't mean it can't be filtered out a bit more. THQ has raised awareness that no publisher is safe in the video game industry. Release too much content that people don't want, and any company could find itself in a financial slump. Hopefully more companies, especially those that aren't that high up in the industry, realize this and release less shovelware. It’ll be good for everyone involved. Seriously, no one ever wanted all of those movie tie-ins and shoddy party games.
Casual games don't need to go away, but they should be good
WWE '13 is a fairly casual game, but it's still a great game regardless.
Games like WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Dance Central, and Jetpack Joyride are just a few titles that don't require players to be core gamers, but they're not poor efforts, either. Instead, they deliver fun gameplay that may not be on the same level as something like Grand Theft Auto or The Legend of Zelda but certainly warrants interest. If developers are going to make casual games, they might as well make them so that most people can enjoy them. Nintendo has sort of managed to strike a sweet spot with casual games, providing titles such as Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U — games that can be enjoyed by the core market while also being accessible to newer players.
Quality over quantity
Slapping people with purple dongs in Saints Row: The Third is still fun to this day.
Right now, THQ can't afford to release games people don't want. There's no room for movie tie-ins, crappy kids' games, or experimental projects like uDraw. Instead, the company is focusing on franchises it knows. Saints Row 4, WWE '13, Darksiders 2, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Metro: Last Light have been the company’s known primary focuses. Rather than just turning out game after game, THQ is being forced to publish a smaller quantity of releases. Luckily for the company, these are all games that have generated a large amount of interest.
If Rockstar Games has proven anything, it's that it can create massive piles of revenue with very few releases as long as those releases are of the utmost quality. Max Payne 3 was Rockstar's only new game in 2012, and it crossed the three million sales mark shortly after launch. Next year, Grand Theft Auto 5 will also succeed, and the folks over at Rockstar will be jumping into piles of cash in a vault a la Scrooge McDuck. THQ doesn't need to release too many games to fill its vault with money — it needs to release games that people care about.
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