JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Former THQ executive reveals fate of lost games

Date
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.

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.

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

6 comments so far

  • Hate to be a pedant (but I will be), but "a 2024 release" for the Devil's Third? That's a rather long development time isn't it? I mean, not Duke Nukem long, but still kinda long.

    Commenter
    Kidfla5h68
    Date and time
    March 19, 2014, 8:49AM
    • Thank you for spotting that typo, it has been corrected :)

      Commenter
      The Screen Play Pixie
      Location
      the aether
      Date and time
      March 19, 2014, 12:08PM
  • The loss of all that 40k work is a true tragedy - apparently the asking price to hand it over to someone is truly exorbitant and thus it is very unlikely to see the light of day - which seem ridiculous. Given that Games Workshop seems to be handing out licences to develop 40k games willy nilly now (that clone PvZ mobile game crammed with microtransactions, Storm of Vengeance, being a case in point) and a huge potential audience, something could easily be done with all that work, regardless of whether it inhabited the MMO or multiplayer co-op spaces.

    Commenter
    azzski
    Date and time
    March 19, 2014, 9:46AM
    • It's funny, all these years that I've seen the name THQ show up, I think of their poor 90s reputation and cannot think of many modern decent games I've played by them. I don't know whether it's stigma from the past, or my ignorance, but the name THQ has never sat well with me.

      Commenter
      Joka
      Date and time
      March 19, 2014, 10:22AM
      • I'm still a bit dirty on the "system" that actually led to the dissolution of THQ.

        Most people assumed that when THQ declared Bankruptcy they were 'broke" and hence had to be sold off piece by piece. While yes they were in the red the situation wasn't as simple as that. The biggest reason THQ started the procedures for the Bankruptcy motion was the fact that they had a buy-out deal w/ another investment company. In order for THQ to be sold they had to declared Bankruptcy for solvency so they can then be bought by the investment company. (This is the same procedure that happened w/ GAME here in Australia except there was no buyers for the business at which point the business assets were then sold off)

        The original plan was the company would keep them from going red and THQ would be able to stay as *one* publisher. Unfortunately a nice little quirk of the US system is that it allows the shareholders to "block" such sales if they feel that the asset being sold off in parts would result in a bigger "return" from the solvency. So what happens is a handful of such investors used this clause and demanded that THQ be sold off in lots by auction instead as the short term return on those sales would be worth more than the offer for the "full" sale of THQ....the rest they say is history.

        The irony here is in a last ditch attemp by John Rubin to save THQ by negotiating a deal to keep THQ together he started a process that would lead to its eventual dissolution =/

        Commenter
        RocK_M
        Location
        I want chinese take-away!
        Date and time
        March 19, 2014, 4:58PM
        • The cruel and unusual treatment of the W40k IP is criminal in my eyes. Particularly that sham PvZ type game they're trying to flog on Steam.

          It's a damn shame that companies will invest so much in producing a cookie cutter shoot 'em up like Coddlefield 7: Gears of Halo yet a universe with such rich and soulful lore is relegated to lane defense and quasi-RTS.

          Commenter
          Steam
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          April 08, 2014, 2:59PM

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

          Featured advertisers