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THQ wrestles with social games scene

Publisher partners with cloud service Joyent for 'rapid deployment' of Facebook titles

Publisher THQ is planning to launch a number of titles into the increasingly contested social games space, having signed an agreement with middleware firm Joyent to provide back-end tech.

THQ claims the partnership with the cloud gaming outfit will allow it to speed titles to market, freeing up its studios to work on game design rather than the nuts and bolts of server infrastructure, bandwidth, hosting and network operations.

"For me it's all about building a platform that the developers can actually use," Mike Hogan, THQ's vice president of Online Publishing and Operations told GamesIndustry.biz, "and they can work on stuff that they're good at - which is creating games.

"Everything that we can do to spend more effort and polish on the game makes the game a better game, and it makes the audience a larger audience. Instead of spinning the wheel every time we make a game, we just solve the problem once, and that has to impact the quality.

On why THQ chose Joyent specifically, Hogan claimed that "First of all it's scalable. With social games you never really know how it's going to be. You could start out small and then within a matter of days have to scale very quickly - and Joyent are very good at that.

"The second thing is that unlike a lot of other competitors, which I will not name, Joyent provide a service level guarantee. Other companies out there, cloud computing networks, aren't what I would consider production quality.

"They won't give you any kind of phone number or however many hour response times, that sort of thing. 'It's broken and we'll fix it if we get around to it.' Which is fine, but not if you're serious about your business.

"There's always going to be a problem, and if there is I know that I can call and [Joyent] are going to be at the other end and they're going to help me solve my issue."

Adrian Ludwig, Joyent VP of Marketing, added "Our business model at Joyent is to have our customers be successful and to work with our partners to make sure that their businesses grow. And then as their businesses grow our business grows.

"Whereas a lot of the other cloud providers right now, they're in the business of selling part of a pool that they've built. Frankly they don't care whether the particular customer is successful or not, as long as in general the number of customers satisfies the need that exists and the resources that they have.

"We have built our business on the success of customers going from being relatively small in a particular application to being relatively big. We fundamentally believe that getting those customers to be successful is the way that we'll be able to catch up with the bigger competitors in this space."

THQ is yet to reveal titles and launch dates, but Investor and Media Relations spokesperson Julie MacMedan offered: "Across the spectrum of the type of games that we publish, whether it be core game brands or more casual and family brands, we have put into place strategies for social media."

"Obviously signing this agreement is helping us to bring about quite a few games over the next couple of months."

A full interview with THQ's Mike Hogan, covering his thoughts on the social game space in general and planned business models for the publisher's new scheme, will be published on GamesIndustry.bizlater today.

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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