THQ auction update: Rubin, Farrell comment on demise

Sega buys Relic, Koch gets Volition, Ubisoft takes Montreal studio, Take-Two and Crytek also lay claims


THQ bosses Brian Farrell and Jason Rubin have commented on the gradual demise of the publisher, expressing disappointment at the company's closure but also qualified optimism about the future of the properties and employees which found a home during yesterday's asset auction.

"While we had hoped that the restructuring process would allow the company to remain intact, I am heartened that the majority of our studios and games will continue under new ownership," said Farrell. "It has been my pleasure to work alongside this great group of people, and I am proud of the imaginative and artistic games that our team has created.

"Although we will no longer be able to work together with a unified mission, I am confident that the talent we have assembled will continue to make an impression on the video game industry. For those whose positions are not likely to continue, I sincerely regret this outcome and we will be meeting with you over the next few days to discuss the transition."

Ex-THQ president Jason Rubin echoed Farrell's sentiments. "I was brought in eight months ago to help turn this ship around, and while I'm disappointed that we could not effect a sale for the entire operating business, I am pleased that the new buyers will be providing jobs to many of our very talented personnel.

"When we first announced the sale process, I said I would be happy if the company's games and people had a bright future, even if it meant I did not have a job at the end of it. And I still feel that way.”

Original story

THQ is no more. The publisher today was sold at auction yesterday and today, with its studios and assets being split between a number of its former competitors.

According to a letter sent to all THQ employees and posted by Kotaku, piecemeal bids from a variety of publishers combined to surpass the $60 million deal that Clearlake Capital Group offered to acquire the company outright. As a result, certain brands and studios will be passed on to new owners, while assets that weren't picked up will remain part of the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy and still be considered up for sale.

As for who purchased what, Sega picked up Relic Entertainment, creators of THQ's Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series of strategy games. Sega already has its own strategy studio, The Creative Assembly, working on a game based on Warhammer 40,000's fantasy counterpart.

Koch Media, parent company of Dead Island developer Deep Silver, acquired Volition, the developer behind the Saints Row and Red Faction series. Koch also picked up the Metro brand. Ukrainian developer 4A Games was expected to have Metro: Last Light ready for release early this year. The film rights to the post-apocalyptic action series were also picked up by MGM last year.

Ubisoft will wind up with THQ Montreal, a studio that was the source of a legal spat between the companies after Assassin's Creed creator Patrice Désilets was hired away to head up the THQ outfit. In addition to the studio, Ubisoft also picked up the South Park: The Stick of Truth game, currently in development at Obsidian Entertainment and the source of some controversy from rights-holder South Park Studios in the days leading up to the auction.

Take-Two grabbed Evolve, a new title mentioned in THQ's bankruptcy filings and projected to sell 4 million copies. Meanwhile, Crytek walked away with Homefront, the sequel to which it is already developing.

No buyer was listed for Vigil Games, or its Darksiders franchise. The publisher's popular WWE license was similarly unaccounted for in the letter to employees. All the sales are expected to close this week.

"We expect that most employees of the entities included in the sale will be offered employment by the new owners," THQ president Brian Farrell and CEO Jason Rubin told employees in the letter. "However, we cannot say what these owners may intend, and there will likely be some positions that will not be needed under the new ownership."

The remainder of THQ's employees will lose their jobs this week, outside of a small number of headquarters staff needed "to assist with the transition."

The writer of the Distressed Debt Investing blog (which has been covering the THQ bankruptcy proceedings) tweeted some sales figures for the auctions. According to the posts, Relic brought in the most money, going for $26 million to Sega. Koch forked over $22.3 million for Volition, while Take-Two paid $11 million for Evolve. Metro was the next most lucrative asset, going for $5.8 million, followed by South Park ($3.2 million), THQ Montreal ($2.5 million), and Homefront ($500,000). Those provided the bulk of the proceeds, with Distressed Debt Investing reporting the auction total as close to $100 million.

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Latest comments (23)

Dean Parker9 years ago
Surprised that no one picked up Vigil and Darksiders. So much more they could do with that IP and they were a talented studio
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
Publishing not bought.
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Harrison Smith Studying Games and Graphics Programming, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology9 years ago
So did the company of heroes IP was included in the Relic sale? There appeared to of been a bidding war for it, so you would assume that CoH was included?

Another question is what happens to the horde of unsold IP?, do they go public domain or sit in vaults of the creditors?
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Show all comments (23)
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 years ago
From everything I've read, the Relic purchase includes the CoH IP. Still... Come on a new version Homeworld! :p

Regarding unsold IP... THQ is still in Chapter 11, so presumably their remaining assets are still available for someone to purchase, or if there's no buyers, then they'll remain with THQ until the company comes out of Chapter 11 (if it comes out).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 23rd January 2013 11:07pm

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development9 years ago
Ubisoft will wind up with THQ Montreal, a studio that was the source of a legal spat between the companies after Assassin's Creed creator Patrice Désilets was hired away to head up the THQ outfit
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 9 years ago
I'm surprised Volition and their Saints Row series didn't bring in more but I suppose what really surprised me was who ended up winning them.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
Sad Sad Sad news... Sad that THQ had to fall in the first place, sad that alot of the employee's lost their jobs and sad that the fate of many of their games is questionable, leading to the dissolution of the studio behind the games... even if the brands survive.

I would rather who ever bought the studios keep the same people rather than get rid of them and have other people, make the games. This is why its SAD. Because the brands are saved, but the people who made them are gone. I would very much like to see the same people at Vigil games do Darksiders as well as the same people at Volition do Saints Row.

Im worried about the fate of some of my favorite games like Darksiders and Saints Row. And Im hoping the people making these games are still the same after they are aquired by other publishers. I hope the new owners of these brands dont try to tamper too much with the creative integrity of the develpers towards their games or the formulas already established. Saints Row is a game that doesnt take itself too seriously, I like being able to create my main character. It would suck if they tried to approach it the same way as Grand Theft Auto.

However Darksiders can seem to benefit if its aquired by Platinum games. Darksiders would combine well with platinum games over the top action. It would make for an amazing action RPG. However Im worried about Saints Row. Koch Media/Deep Silver, has a few games in there portfolio, but none that gives me confidence Saints Row will succeed. I very much loved the 3rd one. I have high hopes for the next installment and I hoe this sale benefits that. i hope the game isnt rushed and that the new owners dont get in the way of the developers creative integrity. Saints Row is a high selling Brand and its going up against Grand Theft Auto V. I hope Koch Media doesnt rush the game out the door with hopes of racking in money in quickly by selling just a brand. Deep Silver was a partner with ATLUS with Catherine, so hopefully they are open minded enough to allow Saints Row to be what it can be.

And Vigil games, I hope they are picked up soon and the team remains the same.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 24th January 2013 3:32pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
@Paul - look at it this way: Deep Silver now has a pretty reliable studio to work with on a new project 9which hopefully won't combine Saint's Row and Dead Island... but ya never know). Personally, I'd LOVE to see Volition do another RPG (Summoner III!) just because it would be fun to see a fantasy RPG that spans time and takes place in the past, present and future (if you know the Summoner games, you'll know what I'm talking about - hopefully)...
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Hugo Trepanier Senior Game Designer, Ludia9 years ago
@Rick what is so sad about this news? I see it as is mostly good as now these franchises and more importantly the studios and people behind them are now in good hands (assuming most of them do keep their jobs). This ensures that these games will see the light of day with proper financial support until release.

It's only sad for the bits that were left behind (not surprising about the publishing part since the buyers are all publishers already, save for Crytek). You can also argue that more competition is always better and now we have one major industry player less, but I'd rather see parts of THQ survive than risk losing it all.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios9 years ago
Can Morville or someone else help clarify some things, now that THQ have funds through the sales, can they now operate as a publisher? What needs to happen, before they can continue (ie. the Darksiders franchise, sign and fund new games etc)

Or do THQ simply disband and walk away with the money? I thought their goal was to maintain operations.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 24th January 2013 6:11am

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Stephan Schwabe Multichannelmanagement, Telefonica9 years ago
Good question Marty i was thinkig the same.
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Charlie Andre-Barrett European Digital Sales Manager, Bethesda Softworks9 years ago
Very sad and my thoughts go to my friends at THQ at this time , remain positive , one door closes and another one will open !
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
This auction tells you a lot.
All that matter now is brands. Call them properties or IP if you like. This is where the real value in this industry lies.
A few years ago much of what we did was other people's brands. Films, Sport franchises etc.
But now we mostly own our own IP. And we increasingly license out our brands for other industries to use.
And once you have a good brand up and running you can take it anywhere it will make money.

More evidence of the industry finally growing up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 24th January 2013 11:29am

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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios9 years ago
Tom you didn't answer my question...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 24th January 2013 1:03pm

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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts9 years ago
Let's just hope that when it comes to Metro, they don't Koch it up.

I'll get me coat.
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T. Elliot Cannon Game Designer 9 years ago
I wonder who ended up with the Warhammer 40k MMO license? Since SEGA grabbed Relic, (who did numerous Warhammer 40k RTS titles and Space Marine) perhaps they are now the sole owner of the 40k game digital universe. I can certainly see CA doing incredible RTS titles in the Warhammer Fantasy and 40K universe, but will they venture into the realm of shooters and MMOs? Would love to see that indeed.

Now SEGA has the development expertise and to both WH Fantasy RTS out of Horsham at CA and continue 40k RTS out of Vancouver with Relic. Sounds like a mega win for RTS players.
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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove9 years ago
Long term this could be positive for the acquired developers as their new owners are in a stronger financial position and hopefully able to invest for long term growth of the acquired brands. There may even be some transfer of marketing staff who managed these brands at THQ.

Short term lots of uncertainty & questions plus redundancy for publishing & operations teams which in my experience include some very strong staff who have worked hard under extremely tough circumstances.

Crossing my fingers for all of you
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Mark Nelson Games/Level Designers 9 years ago
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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven9 years ago
@ Rick Lopez:
I don't see Darksiders being a good Platinum brand. The metal gear universe makes sense, since this was already a cinematic masterpiece filled with Japanese humor and a deep/complex storyline. MGR's Lightning Bolt Action fits Platinumgames' expertise perfectly. Whereas Darksiders just has a totally different feel to it and plays much slower.
I think Ninja Theory would be a better fit. I see them as the western Platinumgames
(note that I base this opinion on just WATCHING the first Darksiders.)

If Crytek didnt buy the Homefront property, they'd still be able to continue making Homefront 2 right?
So what this means is basically that Homefront2 will kick ass and they want to make Homefront3?
I actually liked Homefront. I don't get all the negativity around it. They made a military shooter that felt different, that's what everyone wanted right? I enjoyed it. (Single player only)

I wish good luck to everyone involved.
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Ashlyn Sparrow Game Designer & LEarning Design Specialist, University of Chicago9 years ago
I still find it very interesting that no one made a bid on Vigil. Darksiders is a wonderful take on the apocalypse. Since there are two horsemen left, there are at least two more games to pull out of the series. II think Sony would have been a good place for Vigil and then they could be paired with Santa Monica or even Sucker Punch. The games that these studios create would be a good pairing with Vigil.
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Matt Hewitson Senior QA Technician, Crytek UK9 years ago
Darksiders 2 had disappointing sales, that's probably why nobody touched it. First two weeks, 250k sold 1.4m and needed 2m to break even. Great game, but didn't do well at retail.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
Ninja Theory worked with japanese companies for DMC... they would "also" be a good home for darksiders, since they know how to do cinematic action games very well. Metal Gear Rising at first didnt make sense, people thought it was a crazy idea. Till this day its not even considered a real Metal Gear game. Like the Metal Gear Acid! games, it shares title, story and concept from the main series. Like megaman and megaman battlenetwork games. Its accepted as a series spin off, not part of the main series. What Platinum did was make an awsome action game. Thats why despite where the idea originated from, it will be a good game and it will sell. Both Ninja Theory and Platinum games are good homes for Darksiders. Im just hoping the creative staff remains the same, regardless who purchases them. Would hate to see the studio dissolved.
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Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 9 years ago
Makes me sad inside... I had the opportunity to work on most of the first releases of many of these games (CoH, Saints Row, Darksiders, DoW) and many other titles in my few years at THQ. Great people all around from corporate and especially the various studios. It was my first foray into games, and I wish everyone there the best of luck moving forward. And I am totally shocked about Vigil not getting picked much talent there, and humble fellas to boot. Still hard to believe that THQ will be but a memory soon.
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