Asset: South Park: The Stick of Truth
Probable Destination: Microsoft
THQ does not own South Park, nor can it claim ownership of The Stick of Truth’s developer, independent studio Obsidian. It merely holds the publishing rights to this hotly anticipated RPG, which is likely to draw a lot of interest due not only to the South Park brand, but also because of the involvement of showrunners Matt Stone and Trey Parker. These factors have fueled a lot of excitement and anticipation around the game’s release. The fact that the game is almost done should also add to its appeal for potential buyers, who are likely to be headlined by Microsoft.
Microsoft? Wouldn’t that mean the PS3 version would be shelved, thereby throwing away a lot of potential revenue? Yes, but Microsoft and South Park have a long history together, including two exclusive Xbox Live Arcade games – Tenorman’s Revenge and Let’s Go Tower Defense Play!. Microsoft has also promoted South Park heavily on the Xbox Dashboard and even offered a free HD download of the episode “Good Times With Weapons.” In short, they have a long-term, solid working relationship. And Microsoft could certainly use a complementary first-party release to close out the Xbox 360 generation alongside Gears of War: Judgment.
[*In its bankruptcy filing, THQ’s internal sales forecasts set sales expectations for The Stick of Truth at 3.1 million worldwide units sold]
Asset: Volition (including Saints Row)
Probable Destination: Activision
It is Activision’s business model to have a relatively small number of brands, with the tradeoff being that all of those are HUGE BRANDS. Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Skylanders, etc. – Activision spends a lot of money to make a lot of money. And they have long coveted an open-world sandbox game to compete in the Grand Theft Auto space. True Crime? Failed – both the original and the reboot. Prototype? Failed. Saints Row is not only the biggest non-GTA sandbox game on the market, but it offers Activision a turnkey solution to their sandbox problem.
By purchasing developer Volition and simply funding them to keep doing what they’re doing, Activision has a franchise that sells five million copies every time out. Heck, with Activision’s marketing muscle, they could probably push that up another million or two. I’d bet the farm on this one. It just makes too much sense. And if Activision gets Volition’s Red Faction franchise in the deal too, it’s an ace in the hole they can play at a later date.
Asset: Relic Entertainment (including the Company of Heroes and Dawn of War franchises)
Probable Destination: EA
Relic and its real-time strategy game Company of Heroes 2 aren’t likely to move mountains, sales-wise, given how the RTS is something of a niche genre, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be profitable. Relic has a sterling track record, and like South Park, Company offers a low-risk proposition to buyers thanks to its near-guaranteed quality and the fact that it’s almost finished. In the right hands, it can easily crack a million units and attain profitability. And don’t forget about their other big brand, Dawn of War. The company is rumored to be in the early development stages on Dawn of War 3. With that in mind, EA is a likely landing spot, given the mega-publisher’s penchant for RTS franchises. See: Command and Conquer, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth, and SimCity.
[*In its bankruptcy filing, THQ’s internal sales forecasts set sales expectations for Company of Heroes 2 at 2 million worldwide units sold]
Asset: Metro: Last Light
Probable Destination: Warner Bros.
The post-apocalyptic first-person shooter sequel Metro: Last Light, like just about all of THQ’s in-development titles, seems to be shaping up well (a fact that only adds to the sadness of the company’s dire financial situation). And yes, it too is due out in the early months of 2013, meaning it’s quite far along. It’s also not wholly owned by THQ; they’re merely handling publishing duties. Thus, predicting its new home is the most difficult of the group, however, because so many publishers already have a major FPS series in their stable. Therefore, it’s best to look at who has a hole that needs filling, and whose portfolio a bleak, M-rated adult shooter would best fit.
To that end, Warner Bros. seems like the most logical destination. WBIE certainly isn’t afraid of a violent, M-rated title (see: Mortal Kombat), and given the popularity of the FPS genre, they could certainly use Metro, given that the currently dormant F.E.A.R. series (last seen in mid-2011). Square Enix could also be a possible buyer.