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Friday, January 25, 2013

Farewell THQ

Starting a new semester with a writing intensive course load has put me in the position of having little time to write for myself, and what free time I do have tends to go to PLAYING the games I want to talk about. Last I wrote I mentioned an Assassin-Type game compare-contrast and I still want to, but today I wanted to discuss something else.

Much to my dismay one of my favorite publishers is closing its doors. My condolences to those employees and their families, but it also brings to mind a concerning question about the video game industry.

I can't claim a degree in economics so as to comment on their practices as a company, but as a gamer, I can say that they were the publisher for many of my favorite games. It struck me that the developer of Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, Saints Row, and Space Marine could be here one day, gone the next. THQ was far from perfect, but I rarely recall seeing them being publicly defamed for business practices or game quality. The sad thing is, then I look at all those companies still around who's names are spoken with venom such as EA or Activision-Blizzard. I've enjoyed games from those companies, but it seems no extreme to say that some of their practices have earned them the disdain of their customers. Yet they are the ones still floating along.

I fear this means that some developer/publishers may move more towards those practices as a means to stay afloat. Say what I will about EA/Activision, their plan of yearly release of certain titles and focus on the whole market (consoles AND PC) seems to keep them up and running. Even others such as SquareEnix and Ubisoft have their yearly release cash-cow. This may merely be a correlation, but it is striking. At a time when the majority of games demoed at conventions will be existing IP's, where 10 years ago the majority of a show-floor was not.

I won't deny that I like some of them, I enjoy Assassin's Creed and Halo for their setting and story, but I do find that the creative side of the industry is having trouble. Indie games certainly pick up much of that slack, but the market is still dominated by the giants. I love Steam for implementing GreenLight to try and foster that, but Valve can't exactly claim innocence in the creativity corner given that every game they've released in the past decade has had a "2" or higher following it.

All in all, I wonder if the industry can break from that rut, or if we're in an inescapable spiral where new ideas are the exception and polished-repeats the norm.

Alas I wax philosophy, this one is to THQ. Whatever straw broke the camel's back, I thank them for their games and the hours of entertainment they provided to me. I will think fondly on playing as a 4-man Space Marine squad with friends, smashing, shooting, stabbing, lasering, plasma-ing, jet-pack-stomping and so on hordes of Orks. I'll go blow up some things in Saints Row 3 in their honor or street-race a friend.

I do hope things go well for those sub-developers and for their staff; maybe we'll see some new start-ups rise from the proverbial ashes. Here's to hoping.

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