The insatiable THQ Nordic and the essence of its acquisitions
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You must’ve heard that THQ Nordic has recently acquired another big studio with a package of well-known IPs and trademarks. We are talking of course about Piranha Bytes, which is now a part of the insatiable publisher’s portfolio along with Gothic, Elex, Risen, and other games previously belonging to the studio. Many of us might believe that the actions of THQ Nordic are led by good intentions, but we all know exactly which notorious road is paved with them.
Funnily, THQ Nordic has bought so many IPs and studios throughout the few past years that there’s a Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to the list of acquisitions made by the publisher. If that’s not troubling at all – we don’t know what else could be. You are free to disagree with that statement, as THQ Nordic has earned the people’s love. But while the company is commonly seen as a direct successor to the legacy of THQ, it is not necessarily true. It is worth mentioning that THQ was an American company with a long record of releasing high-quality titles. It was this company who introduced us to wonderful Company of Heroes and Dawn of War by Relic, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Destroy All Humans!, Red Faction, and Saints Row among many others. The company prematurely went bankrupt, and the subsequent acquisition of the THQ brand by the Austrian company Nordic Games was met as a comeback of the formerly iconic publisher. But how’s that true if there’s almost nothing in common between the two companies apart from a partially shared name?
Let’s take a closer look at the company and its place in the gaming industry. THQ is not the only huge acquisition made by Nordic. The company also owns the intellectual property of Koch Media, Coffee Stain Holding, NovaLogic, etc. The current portfolio of THQ Nordic primarily consists of someone else’s assets, and the company has gathered a lot of positive feedback mainly due to the fact that we love the very games it’s operating with – but not the publisher itself. Don’t fool yourselves – the initial goal behind these purchases is to use the established brands and their devoted audiences as an easy solution to the problem of making money. THQ Nordic is not driven by the sheer desire to please the fans – it’s the fans who are pleasing the company with their savings. We are not by any means being ungrateful to the company for the revival of many iconic series and franchises of the past, but is that the return we were all hoping for? Let’s turn to a few examples.
THQ Nordic is not driven by the sheer desire to please the fans – it’s the fans who are pleasing the company with their savings.
Perhaps, the most notable recently revived series by THQ Nordic is Darksiders. The original dilogy earned a cult status among the slasher fans for its post-apocalyptic setting and charismatic characters along with engaging gameplay. When the triquel was initially announced, the fans were full of joy – to say the least. The result was… well, it’s definitely not the game we were all hoping for. While Darksiders 3 was developed with the original creators in the team, the project couldn’t live up to highly raised expectations. Unfortunately, the game proved to be not more than above average with critics pointing out the problems with boring mechanics, repetitive gameplay, and overly complicated approach towards the combat system. It all began with remasters of the two original games though – and this particular approach is being utilized by THQ Nordic on a regular basis.
Take for instance Titan Quest. An iconic Diablo-killer, which is, in reality, a lot more than that, was ported by the company on new platforms and remastered with modern visuals. That’s great, and no one depreciates the accomplishment there. Then came two expansion packs that were supposed to expand and enrich the original experience. Both Ragnarök and the most recent Atlantis add-on are being criticized for the poor quality of the work put into the expansions. Careless level-design, lazy reuse of the original assets, silly animations, character models, and story quests – you name it. These two add-ons are not bad though, but they are not indisputably great. And here comes the question. What was the sacred purpose of developing them for a long-forgotten game if not to simply make some easy money?
That’s exploitation at its “finest” – and it’s just the beginning.
The main concern over the acquisitions made by THQ Nordic is that the company doesn’t care for quality – it cares for the fan base, but not the way you might picture it. Fans of the old franchises are the people who are willing to throw their money away if there’s even an insignificant trace of a possible return of their beloved games. THQ Nordic knows that – and the company uses this knowledge to turn it into profits. That’s exploitation at its “finest” – and it’s just the beginning. We’ve recently learned that the publisher has almost 80 games in development. How many of them are going to be original titles – and which ones are going to mock your feelings towards once flawless gaming franchises?
Now, we’d love to make a mistake here. We’d love to underestimate and get confused, but the facts clearly state the opposite. The quality of newest entries to the old series doesn’t comprehend with the level of passionate work put into the original games. THQ Nordic is about to make two huge announcements at E3 2019, and many believe that one of them might be a sequel to TimeSplitters. And then there’s Red Faction, Destroy All Humans!, etc. We fear that the company’s trend to make low-quality sequels will continue, and the memories of once great gaming series are going to be spoiled by those modern entries.
Perhaps, what’s gone – should be gone forever.
In our opinion, there’re two reasonable ways for THQ Nordic to avoid the possible tragic outcomes mentioned above. The first one is for the old franchises to be only remastered – without milking them by developing sequels. Perhaps, what’s gone – should be gone forever. In most cases, the people behind those games are not related to them anymore. They either are working somewhere else in the industry or have already left the game development entirely. They were the ones with the original vision; it’s their work that is being loved by the fans worldwide years and decades after the games released. Giving these well-established franchises away for other, less experienced studios to develop heartless sequels is a crime.
The second way touches upon the acquired modern studios along with their IPs. At the beginning of the article, we’ve mentioned Piranha Bytes. Do you believe that the studio will be allowed to do what it longs for? Most likely, we are going to see new entries to Gothic, Risen, and maybe even Elex – rushed and forced by the publisher. Once again, we’d like to judge the situation mistakenly – but the aforementioned course of events is highly possible. What should THQ Nordic do? The solution is simple – just let the studios do what they want, not what the owner wants.
The recent new non-franchise games under THQ Nordic label prove that there’s space for creativity and originality. Biomutant has huge potential, while Fade to Silence might eventually become a wholesome phenomenon in the survival genre. But right now, THQ Nordic is more of an all-absorbing vacuum cleaner – and as a result, there’s just dust.
The opinion of the author may not reflect the editorial views.
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