Article written by Peter Chapman.
Published on 23/01/2013 at 08:33 PM.
The auction to find new homes for THQ’s studios and IP concluded yesterday. We’ve just seen the list of bidders made public, with new publishers for some old favourites and THQ’s considerable development talent finding new homes too.
Strangely, this auction process isn’t final. If the total of all bids for all properties is less than the $60 million Clearlake and THQ had previously agreed upon then the judge will allow that earlier deal to go through. If the total is greater than that figure, the judge will declare that the Clearlake deal can’t go through and they’ll hold a second auction to actually sell of the properties. It’s a complex and somewhat bizarre process which is bound to cause plenty of confusion for those of us who aren’t bankruptcy experts. Well, thanks to a letter sent from THQ’s CEO and President to the company’s employees (via Kotaku), we now have some answers for at least what THQ plans to do with it’s assets.
It was rumoured that Sega would snap up Relic and Company of Heroes 2. That seemed like a great fit at the time, with Sega already home to one of the best strategy developers (Creative Assembly) so the news that they tabled the highest bid for the developer is a good sign that they’ll actually make the purchase once the sales properly begin. That has now been confirmed, but THQ’s letter only specifies that Sega has agreed to purchase Relic itself (for $26 million) – presumably that includes the Company of Heroes IP and the upcoming second game, but that is as yet unclear.
We also heard rumblings that Koch were looking at Evolve, the Turtle Rock game that was leaked in bankruptcy filings. It seems that Turtle Rock has actually been bid on by Take 2, presumably taking their in-development game with them when they go. Koch was also been linked by rumours to Volition, the developers of Red Faction and Saints Row (although those properties would be sold separately) and that deal seems much more likely now, along with the purchase of Metro: Last Light by Deep Silver’s parent company. The official word from THQ is that Koch has agreed to purchase Volition ($22.3 million) and Metro ($5.8 million); Volition is a reasonably clear cut case (although whether the Saints Row and Red Faction franchises are included is again unclear), but things are less clear with Metro. The Metro name itself was licensed by THQ from the author who created the universe, and that license would seemingly not be transferable (a new license would need to be signed by Koch), and the game’s developers 4A are independent and therefore not up for auction here. Presumably, THQ means that the current game in development, Metro: Last Light, has been passed to Koch.
It also seems that Take 2 has bought up the Darksiders IP but intends to pull down the shutters on Vigil, who weren’t bought up by anyone. THQ’s message mentions that Take 2 has agreed to purchase the in-development Turtle Rock game Evolve (for around $11 million; Turtle Rock themselves, like 4A, are independent), but makes no mention of Darksiders. Later in the note, it is confirmed that an agreement for Vigil was not reached, and that the company will be looking to sell it off as part of the bankruptcy process. Obviously the poor reception to and performance of Darksiders 2 is to blame here, but it’s worth noting reports that minimum bids in the auction were pegged at $500,000 (more on this in a mo), so its possible that potential buyers simply didn’t value Vigil to that number.
EA and Warner have both been named in much of the speculation so it’s a surprise that they haven’t cropped up for anything just yet. It seems that Crytek thinks it can turn around the fortunes of Homefront, with a rumoured bid of $500,000. Things with Homefront are again not wholly clear – Crytek themselves are developing the game, so it appears that the company just wants to make sure that their work has not gone to waste. It’s likely that Crytek could later sign on with someone like EA (who they have close ties with over the Crysis franchise) to bring the game to market.
There is also some confusion over the future of South Park: The Stick of Truth, with THQ attempting to sell the licensed game and its licensees insisting that they don’t have the rights to sell a game they don’t wholly own. Ubisoft had been rumoured for that one and it seems that the French company has tabled the highest bid for it – $3.2 million – as well as the THQ Montreal studio ($2.5 million, which should see former Assassin’s Creed designer, Patrice Desilets, return to Ubisoft). The Montreal deal is reasonably clean cut – although whether Desilets will return to Ubisoft is another question entirely – but we’ll have to wait for word on whether South Park Studios will step in to make another deal elsewhere. Either way, the game’s developers Obsidian are independent, so are not up for grabs themselves.
As we’ve already mentioned, while THQ notes that they expect these deals will be approved, things are still up in the air to some extent until the judge in the case does agree to them, but we should hear on that soon. There are also still questions surrounding Vigil, as well as some of THQ’s smaller and older IPs like Titan Quest or Homeworld – likely these weren’t worth the minimum bid price, and will be picked up later for cheaps.
Finally, on a somewhat related note: Our resident cuddly bear, Tuffcub, has spotted something of a bargain deal over on Amazon.com – 19 THQ games to download for PC for just $25.
Update: We appreciate that this is quite a wordy article and quite long. Here’s the tl;dr:
- Sega has agreed to buy Relic and Company of Heroes 2 for something like $26.6 million, narrowly beating out a bid of $26.3 million from Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax.
- Koch (owners of Deep Silver) have agreed to buy Volition (makers of Red Faction and Saints Row) for $22.3 million and Metro Last Light (4A Games are making that and are not a part of THQ) for around $5.88 million (beating a Ubisoft bid of around $5.1 million). They’ve said that Deep Silver will head all future Saints Row and Metro development.
- Crytek has agreed to buy Homefront for around $540,000.
- Ubisoft has agreed to purchase THQ Montreal, and the games it was working on. That means 1666 and Underdog, both leaked in bankruptcy filings.
- Ubisoft has also agreed to buy the rights to South Park: Stick of Truth for $3.3 million but that potential deal could be scuppered by legal action being taken by South Park Studios.
- Take Two Interactive have agreed to buy the publishing rights to Evolve for $10.89 million, Turtle Rock’s game which was leaked by the bankruptcy filings.
- The WWE license will revert back to WWE themselves since THQ is ceasing to exist. THQ didn’t own the brand or the studio (Yuke’s) that made the games. Reports are floating around that Take Two (2K’s parent company) has separately negotiated the picking up of that license with WWE.
- There’s no word on the less current IP that THQ presumably still held rights to – things like Destroy All Humans! MX vs ATV and Big Mutha Truckers. Hopefully those IPs won’t die with the publisher.