Mad Mack: How THQ’s Greatest Games Might Look In The Hands Of EA
So despite talk of securing a last-minute buyer, it looks like THQ are going to go the way of the dinosaurs and enter administration, auction off their remaining assets and then call it a day. The ‘humble bundle’ efforts to raise capital have, unfortunately, failed.
Now, THQ have in their possession some really top quality games and IPs. I am no accountant, but it strikes me that if you are a company that has franchises as popular as Saints Row, Darksiders, Metro and Warhammer, then for you to go under you must mean you’ve been carrying on some seriously bad business and management practices. That said, who am I to judge? I was the assistant manager of my college bar for all of three weeks before getting the sack for drinking too much of the profits. So, you know, I am probably not the best person to be dishing out business advice.
Regardless of the reason, THQ are going. But their franchises, fortunately, are not. They will be holding a ‘title by title’ auction on January 22nd to sell off their assets, and hopefully enable the games they currently have in development to be finished. Among the potential buyers are Ubisoft, Warner Entertainment, and my old nemesis: EA.
In my opinion, EA buying ANYTHING is always bad news. As I have said many, many times before in this column, I think of EA as absolute thundercunts who have been guilty of some of the greatest offenses towards gamers since ET. Personally, I anticipate that they will walk away with some of THQ’s best franchises and absolutely fuck them to within an inch of their lives.
Based on recent EA form, I have had a look at THQ’s big franchises and pondered what the future might hold for them in EA’s not-so-capable hands…
Metro: 2033 was one of the most underrated games ever released. It had amazing game mechanics, oppressive environments and a compelling storyline. All us fans were (rightly) eagerly awaiting the release of Metro: Last Light; not least because it has been written in conjunction with the book-series author Dimitry Glukhovsky (note that this is not the game adaptation of Metro: 2034, the sequel to the 2033 novel, but is still the sequel to the 2033 game – you follow?).
Last Light is pretty much there in terms of development, but what can we expect from the series under EA’s tutelage? In a word: ‘budget’.
Budget everything. Budget gameplay, budget design, budget effects, budget sounds, budget acting, budget writing and budget mechanics. You will see this game lose all of its unique charm and character and go from being an action/survival horror, to a generic budget shooter that appears on the shelves one week and is gone the next.
Warhammer: Dawn of War
THQ have done a great job of capturing the feel of the small-scale tactical engagements you see in your average Warhammer: 40K game – the troop engagements and multiple strategic options for dealing with a given scenario (including my favourite ‘build as many of the biggest thing possible and hit attack/move all the way across the map’ – I am not good at strategy), and no doubt EA will see this as some sort of insult:
‘So you are telling me a game about space marines and orcs and shit, set in the future, isn’t a first-person shooter?’
‘Get. The. Fuck. Out.’
A few phone calls later and ‘Dawn of War III’ is the latest IP that EA have FPS-ised.
I must confess that I have not yet gotten round to playing Saints Row 3 – despite having purchased it in the Humble Bundle – so I cannot say this with absolute confidence. But it seems to me that the Saints Row franchise is what GTA would be if GTA had spent a lot of its formative years huffing paint and hanging around with Hunter S. Thompson. It has lots of the usual ultraviolence you would expect of a GTA-style sandbox game, but also lots of cock-shaped swords, giant cat heads, jet packs, lasers and a whole heap of other insanity.
However, ‘insanity’ in games does not go over well with focus groups, so I would suggest that Saints Row 4 according to EA will be a third-person shooter, possibly with an online co-op aspect (local co-op does not feature in the EA lexicon, as that means that gamers only need to buy one copy to play it). Basically, think ‘Army of Two’ but in a city. And with some tokenistic attempts at slapstick or cock-themed humour. But not too much. Oh no. Perish the thought that you release a game for 18+ or Adults Only, and then can’t sell it in Walmart – you fucking sell-out pigs.
Company of Heroes
Medal of Honour. They might keep some element of squad level play, and call it a ‘tactical squad-based shooter’, but I will bet my left nut that if EA buy the CoH rights, the franchise will be yet another WWII shooter-fest before next Christmas.
And you know, it has been some time since we had a WWII shooter. What, with COD, MoH and the BF franchises moving away from the WWII setting, why, there is a whole generation of gamers out there who have no idea what it was like to drop into Normandy, or storm the beaches of Normandy, or launch commando raids in Normandy, or even know what to do if you ever find yourself lost in Normandy! EA have the perfect opportunity on their hands right now to bring WWII to life in a way that no one has ever seen before – in 3D!
It is really great to live in the future.
So, you like the glorious juxtaposition of adult and juvenile humour that South Park offers? You like how it is uncompromising in ridiculing, well, everything? How it has not bowed to corporate pressure to tone the humour down or leave some topics alone as sacred? Or how they seem to really get to the meat of some really topical and controversial issues?
Yeah, well you can forget that. Because that shit does not fly in the EA corporate HQ. What you can expect is for the game to get cancelled when the creators tell EA to go fuck themselves after being told to censor the game or tone it down in search of that all-important age rating.
Of course, this is all a fairly pessimistic look at what might happen to the THQ franchises. For all we know, Ubisoft will be the main winners, in which case Metro will be remade into a stealth-based thriller; Warhammer will be made into a realistic battle sim; Saints Row will be recrafted into a parkour-driven gangster game; Company of Heroes will be a tactical squad shooter, with vehicles and shit; and South Park will be an open-world FPS. And that would be…well, that might not be so bad actually!