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Interview: THQ CEO Brian Farrell

THQ Wireless has now firmly secured its place in the mobile gaming market, publishing a series of licensed and casual titles along with games tied in with the publisher's console offerings. We caught up with THQ CEO Brian Farrell to discuss the company's strategy going forward. Let's turn to the mobile arm of your business, THQ Wireless. Talk at GDC Mobile focused on the question of whether there's more quantity than quality out there at the moment - what's your mobile gaming strategy? Are you trying to get as much out there as possible, and get people interested, or are you focusing on quality?
Brian Farrell

Part of our strategy is to do very casual games, which is a real challenge in mobile games. The handsets by definition limit the experience. I'm unclear what you mean by quality when you talk about a mobile game - is it the gameplay, is it the interface?

Our strategy has been to do a couple of things - pitch into our biggest brands like WWE, Star Wars, National Basketball Association, and make quality games based on those franchises.

That being said we have some very mass-market games, very casual games coming out from Wireless, because a lot of our research shows that the way mobile players are playing is on a five-minute time period basis. So high quality or low quality reflects what people want to do. I think there's a market for both things.

The thing about wireless [gaming] now is we're going into this new market with all sorts of weird things going on, so we're going to keep steering into what works for us. We've done some very high quality games that have won awards but done zip commercially; and we've done some games that haven't done well in the reviews but done very well commercially. Our job is to find the market. It still seems like there's being a lot of money thrown into the mobile games industry. Do you feel like there could be a boom and bust situation, that there's a danger of the whole thing imploding?
Brian Farrell

You know, we've been in the industry a long time and we've seen developers and publishers come and go in the market, and with wireless it's no different.

There was a bit of a gold rush, I think, after JAMDAT had a very successful offering and was bought by EA, but it's a difficult business with great contest, and you have to find your consumer. I think it's only a handful of companies that can do that well, and some will move out of the mobile sector which will benefit people like us here for the long haul. Talking of the JAMDAT deal - would you consider a similar strategy at THQ, of acquiring an already established mobile company?
Brian Farrell

That was unique... You know, EA took up number one in the space immediately. We were in the space two years ago, and we believed we were only a couple of years behind where JAMDAT was, and they started a few years before us.

I won't rule out any potential acquisitions, but I think what we've built up so far might have a much lower investment cost than EA had to get into that business. We think a little bit differently than our competitors - I think that's one of our strengths.

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