After a few touch-and-go years of hanging by a financial thread, it looks like game publisher THQ is finally, completely done. After entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy and launching a bid to keep the company together by selling out to a single bidder, THQ saw its game development studios and properties sold off individually at auction this week to bidders including Ubisoft, Sega and Crytek.
While the U.S. Bankruptcy Court still has to approve the proposed sales, a letter from THQ CEO Brian Farrell to the company’s employees, published on Kotaku and elsewhere, treats the auction results as all but a foregone conclusion at this point. THQ is laying off all employees whose divisions were not part of the sale, retaining only a small staff to guide what remains of the company through the remainder of the Chapter 11 proceedings.
THQ, established in 1989 to produce toys and videogames, had a well-deserved reputation in the early days for cranking out mostly licensed games and shovelware. A few of these, notably its games based on the World Wrestling Federation, turned out pretty good; the rest were utterly forgettable but many sold well on the strength of the licenses. Only recently did THQ attempt to transition into a publisher known for strong original properties, winning acclaim for its Saints Row, Darksiders and Metro series. It opened a Montreal development studio and lured Patrice Desilets, creative director of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, over to run it. It published several of Double Fine’s games and signed Tomonobu Itagaki (Ninja Gaiden) and Guillermo Del Toro for high-profile game projects.
As of today, that’s all over. But it doesn’t mean that the games in development at THQ are going to disappear. Here’s where they’re going, assuming everything goes to plan:
Ubisoft will pick up the rights to the great-looking South Park: The Stick of Truth game. Showing that it is possessed of a keen sense of irony, it will also acquire the Montreal development studio headed by Desilets. Auction and bankruptcy documents have revealed the names of two games under development at the studio: Underdog and 1666.
Sega will acquire Relic, the developer of the Warhammer 40,000 strategy games. This is quite a good fit, as Sega owns Creative Assembly, developer of the Total War games in the same genre, which recently announced a deal to develop — wait for it — Warhammer games.
Koch Media, which publishes games under the Deep Silver label, will acquire Volition (Saint’s Row) and the Metro franchise.
Crytek, the developer of Far Cry, Crysis and, most notably, the upcoming release Homefront 2, will acquire the Homefront game license from THQ.
Finally, Take 2 will move to acquire Evolve, the new game in development from Turtle Rock Studios, the original developer of Left 4 Dead.
All other assets — including Vigil Games, the developer of Darksiders — will stay with THQ as it goes into Chapter 11 proceedings, although CEO Farrell said that the company would still attempt to find buyers if possible.