In an interview with Games Industry International, newly appointed THQ president Jason Rubin (of Crash Bandicoot fame and Naughty Dog co-founder) discussed the future of the definitely-not-dead company, stating: “Everyone’s out there beating us up, but there we were [on stage at E3], along with the big games.” Rubin was brought on board essentially as a cleaner, meant to save the drowning the company—a task he remains optimistic about.
This year, THQ has run into a series of issues including a threat of stock delistment, poor finances forcing them to limit their presence at gaming conventions, the closure of their Japanese branch, Australian employees being laid off, (discredited) rumors about cancelling their 2014 lineup, as well as being forced to abandon children’s games and Devil’s Third.
Rubin argues that, all of that aside, the company is pretty much on the right track, all thanks to Saints Row. He states that Saints Row had the potential to be a AAA game if Volition had been, “given the tools that they needed to succeed, that there would be a much much more successful title there.” In fact, “The reason that THQ is here is because Saints Row is really successful. You have to create titles that sell copies and do well and that’s what we’re going to focus on.” A big shock to all involved, I’m sure.
He admits that there are some things THQ needs to change, like the fact that they need to start ignoring casuals. He says they need to take care of the money they have, and be “a little less cavalier.” Rubin says, “You won’t be seeing another uDraw. We’re not going to be doing side projects in mobile or casual. You’re not going to see that stuff.” Other than that, he has no plans to restructure the company. Rubin states that what matters to him is that the company produces great games. “Once we’ve succeeded with the games, maybe I’ll talk about how we’re going to restructure and do our labels this and do our labels that. Right now I’m focused on the games.”
Still not convinced that THQ is absolutely not on life support? Rubin takes a moment to shut down skeptics, saying:
How many titles got people walking up on stage at the Xbox conference? Well THQ did. Everyone’s out there beating us up, but there we were, along with the big games. And everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, look, Stick of Truth.’ They’re looking forward to it, that could be huge… but ‘THQ isn’t going to make it.’ There seems to be this disconnect. Metro gets best game shown nominations, but ‘THQ may not make it.’ Company of Heroes – nominations, but ‘THQ isn’t going to make it.’ People are so used to the downward slope that they don’t see that it can flatten out. So I’m here to make it flatten out and then turn the corner.
It’s not all about blockbuster games, though. Rubin cites Portal, World of Tanks, and League of Legends as examples of games that did really well despite not having “the snazziest graphics, the most dollars per minute on screen, 600 person teams.” He explains that this is changing the gaming market. “Maybe some of our titles will compete with some of the mid-sized triple-A titles – you know, a Naughty Dog title or something in the $50-$70 million dollar range. Some of our titles might be smaller than that. Whereas two years ago that might’ve been death, in two years I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” He says South Park: Stick of Truth is an example – “Graphically, it’s not going to compete with Call of Duty, but it’s a really cool game.”
So, Rubin’s advice to company presidents everywhere is: make stuff that sells and does well. And forget about casuals.