Why Vigil and the Darksiders franchise deserved better
This past Wednesday was quite the gloomy day for the video game industry, as THQ was practically picked apart, piece by piece, in an auction, with its assets being sold off to the highest bidder. It turned out to be a happy ending for some, as Relic continues to live on through Sega; Ubisoft will now be publishing South Park: The Stick of Truth; and both Volition and Metro: Last Light have a new home over at Koch Media, the same group that owns Deep Silver and the Dead Island franchise.
But not everyone got off so lucky. Vigil Studios, the team that was the home for the Darksiders franchises and (up until his departure) designer Joe "Mad" Madureira, didn't get picked up by anyone. Because of that, unless THQ manages to find a buyer who's interested in the studio and the franchise, they're bound to suffer the same fate as their publishing company, closing their doors and leaving the questions of the other two Horsemen unanswered.
Which is sad, honestly. To be honest, it may not have been the top seller that THQ was pointing it out to be, despite a large marketing campaign and top-tier quality in its design across the board (it was kick-ass even on the Wii U, honestly). But did that mean Vigil had to shutter its doors as a result? Absolutely not. Let's look at what they did with the series.
They made all the right choices when it came to development. They managed to produce not one but two terrific action games with plenty of elegant design choices throughout, whether it came to the boss fights, the combats, or the environments. They also made choices on the small things that mattered, such as voice acting. No one can forget the delivery of Mark Hamill from the original, nor Michael Wincott providing a great deal of depth to the second game's main character. It's remarkable the kind of effort they put into the development, and it's something that should be considered in their resume.
Sure, Joe "Mad" isn't with the company anymore, but Vigil was more than just one man. A highly talented team helped put the Darksiders universe together, and as a result, it created a sense of mythology that was right up there with the best of the comic book universe, something that could easily stand out. It can still produce quite a bit of attention if someone picked up the franchise and just gave it a chance, whether in comic books, animated form, or maybe even along the lines of novels. That would give it a chance to gain some momentum again, and let the studio tell the remaining two tales in the arc so that it can finally be completed.
Again, most companies are looking at the market value for the company and the franchise, and they can see it's not an instant seller like other franchises. But look at the attention it's getting outside of that, between audience reception, critical acclaim, and that "hardcore" look and feel that most mature gamers can easily accept. These are things that shouldn't be brushed aside, as there's truly some worth here. The Metro series isn't amongst the most best-selling either, and yet it easily managed to find a home at Koch Media, with Last Light eventually ready to find a release. It won't be in March, but at least it's still coming.
In the end, Vigil will probably shut down, and we probably won't hear from the Darksiders franchise again. With that, I implore you companies to give it a second look and see what you're really losing here. Launch a KickStarter to kick in extra funds to bring it back; make it a secondary franchise with digital downloadable games rather than a full retail release; or perhaps even introduce a new franchise for the time being that would be right up the developer's alley. Something – anything – should be done to keep these guys afloat. Because, honestly, they truly kick ass.