Digital Life

Former THQ executive reveals fate of lost games

Checking the results of the bankruptcy fire-sale that sold off THQ's properties piece by piece was a bit like checking the list of survivors after a major disaster: the joy of finding that a beloved franchise had found a new home with another publisher was tempered by sadness over those that were not bought by anyone.

THQ had been one of the world's most successful video game publishers for the better part of two decades, but its shocking descent into inescapable financial ruin was a shocking reminder of just how volatile the games industry can be. No one factor was entirely to blame, but a string of bad choices clinched it - the uDraw tablet peripheral, the poorly received (and conceived) US invasion drama Homefront, and a rushed out sequel to the well-regarded Red Faction: Guerrilla.

Darksiders is one of several THQ franchises that has fallen by the wayside in the reshuffle.
Darksiders is one of several THQ franchises that has fallen by the wayside in the reshuffle. 

Despite property sell-offs, staffing cuts, and studio closures, THQ slid inexorably into bankruptcy, and early last year its remaining assets were auctioned. Games that were close to release and had guaranteed audiences, such as Saint's Row IV and South Park: The Stick of Truth, were snapped up by eager buyers like Deep Silver and Ubisoft. Other titles were less popular, but were purchased in job lots with other more desirable properties.

Others remained in limbo, where they apparently reside to this day. The fate of these games has been a mystery for over a year, but now a THQ executive who left the company not long before it went bust has spoken with unusual frankness to gaming news site VG24/7.

Danny Bilson's job title was Executive Vice President for Core Games, an oversight role that allowed him deep insight into the day-to-day workings of many of THQ's internal studios. He joined THQ in 2008, when the company was already starting to struggle, and was part of a team whose job was to revitalise the company and reverse its flagging fortunes. He left in 2012, mere months before the company's troubles were publicly revealed to be terminal.

In his lengthy and wide-ranging interview with VG24/7, Bilson talked about many of the games that found their way to new homes, but he also shed some light onto the fates of several unreleased titles which had not been granted an explicit stay of execution.


Darksiders fans will be sad to know that the series, along with Vigil, the THQ-owned company that made it, is no more. The fun hack-and-slash gameplay and wonderfully overwrought story about the political machinations of angels, demons, and gods found a respectable audience, but fell victim to bad timing. Darksiders II had only just gone on sale, meaning that Vigil had no valuable work-in-progress to make it an attractive purchase. Nordic Games picked up the rights very cheaply, but with such a long time now elapsed wince the last game's release, it's almost certainly a dead title.

The Devil's Third has had better luck. Before the end, THQ announced that it had killed off this project to save money, but it has been revealed that the rights then reverted to the project lead, Tomonobu Itagaki, the main brain behind popular series such as Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. Itagaki has said the game is on track for a 2014 release, and Bilson hinted that a more formal announcement is coming very soon.

1666: Amsterdam is a colourful one. Very little was known about the project, except that it was the brainchild of Assassin's Creed creator Patrice Désilets, and that Ubisoft had picked up the property in the auction. Ubisoft and Désilets had not parted on good terms, so many observers wondered if fireworks would again start flying. Ultimately, his existing contract with THQ proved to be a sticking point, with Ubisoft feeling that it gave him too much control over the project. The project is now stalled, with Ubisoft retaining the right, much to Désilets's outrage.

InSane was never so much a game that was shown off to the press and the public as much as it was a set of ideas that had not yet begun being hammered into a cohesive form. Fantasy and horror maestro Guillermo del Toro was the main creative force behind the project, which was intended to be a gigantic open world of action and survival, with a strong Lovecraftian twist. All we know now is that del Toro retained the rights when the game was shelved, and he's made no announcements of hiring a team to make the game a reality.

Finally there's Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium, easily the game I was most looking forward to. Initially conceived as a Warhammer 40K MMORPG, THQ and studio Vigil had to scale back their plans due to THQ's ongoing financial dramas. What was left still sounded like something special, a kind of cross between the drop-in drop-out co-op of Borderlands and the grim, gothic beauty of the 40K universe. Both MMO and co-op action game sounded amazing, but the project was killed, a decision Bilson says was one of the hardest he had to made.

So there you have it, readers. All of the other games sold off after THQ's death have found good homes, and many of them have been released already. If there is any particularly good or bad news for you in the titles above, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez