THQ logo, 2011
|Founded||1989, Calabasas, California, United States|
|Defunct||January 23, 2013|
|Headquarters||Agoura Hills, California, United States|
|Products||Saints Row series (sold to Koch Media)
Darksiders series (sold to Nordic Games)
Company of Heroes series (sold to Sega)
WWE series (sold to Take-Two Interactive)
Homefront series (sold to Crytek)
Warhammer 40,000 series (sold to Sega)
Red Faction series (sold to Nordic Games)
MX vs. ATV series (sold to Nordic Games)
|Revenue||$665 million (2011)|
|Net income||$136 million (2011)|
THQ Inc. was an American developer and publisher of video games. Founded in 1989 in Agoura Hills, California, the company developed products for video game consoles, handheld game consoles, as well as for personal computers and wireless devices. Its name derives from "Toy Head-Quarters" during the time when the company was a toy manufacturer in the early 1990s. THQ had offices in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
The company published both internally created and externally licensed content in its product portfolio. THQ's internally created games included the Saints Row series, the Red Faction series, MX vs. ATV, Company of Heroes, and the Dawn of War series, among others. The company also held exclusive, long-term licensing agreements with leading sports and entertainment content creators such as WWE, Nickelodeon, Disney and Pixar.
After several years of financial struggles and an increasing amount of debt, THQ finally declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012 and began liquidating its assets the following month with several properties either being acquired by third parties or auctioned off to other developers. In addition, most of the remaining staff were laid off.
In 1989, Trinity Acquisition Corporation was founded in New York as a shell corporation to raise money for a future venture in an unspecified field of activity. One year later in April 1990, former LJN co-founder Jack Friedman established the toy company, THQ, Inc., in Calabasas, California with a personal investment of $1 million. "THQ" was an abbreviation for Toy Head Quarters. THQ acquired Brøderbund's video game division in September 1990 and released its first video game, Peter Pan and the Pirates, in January 1991. Though always formally called THQ, the company typically traded as T*HQ in video games' box arts and instruction manuals. In 1991, THQ agreed to be acquired by Trinity Acquisition Corp. in a stock swap valued at about $33 million with THQ's shareholders owning 51.7% of the new entity. THQ's name was retained for the new company and Friedman was named as its president. THQ then acquired video game developer Black Pearl Software of Chicago in 1993. THQ withdrew completely from the toy business in 1994 to focus solely on video game production. In addition, the company dropped the * from its label. Jack Friedman then left the company in 1995 to co-found the toy manufacturer Jakks Pacific. In 1997, THQ was reincorporated as a Delaware Corporation., and acquired San Diego video game developer Pacific Coast Power & Light.
In 2000, THQ introduced a new slanted logo for the new millennium, which it would use for the next ten years. In February of that year, THQ faced a class action lawsuit over federal securities laws violation due to nondisclosure of material information. In September of the same year, the company expanded its internal product development capabilities with the acquisition of Volition, Inc. located in Champaign, Illinois. Since then, THQ's internal studio system grew to eleven studios across the globe with distinct capabilities across all viable gaming platforms. Examples of these studios are: Relic Entertainment, Vigil Games, Blue Tongue Entertainment, Juice Games, Kaos Studios and Volition, Inc., who worked on games for next-generation consoles as well as PCs. THQ went on to acquire Vigil Games in 2006. On May 10, 2007, THQ reported its highest annual sales figures and net profits ever for the fiscal year which ended on March 31. THQ's revenues reached over $1 billion. In March 2008, THQ announced the development of the world's first ever cheerleading game using the Wii Balance Board. Not long after, on November 3, 2008, the company closed five of its internal studios: Paradigm Entertainment, Mass Media Inc., Helixe, Locomotive Games, and Sandblast Games. In 2009, huge declines in sales prompted THQ to form a strategic plan to cut $220 million in annual costs by 2010 and invest in "fewer, better bets." Previously in 2007, THQ had a $68-million profit and $1 billion in revenue, which put it within range of the rival Activision. Many of its big-budget games sold poorly, despite having favorable reviews, as the recession hit. Its hold on kids' games based on Nickelodeon TV shows and Pixar movies slipped as kids turned to free online games playable on the Internet. With shares down 86% from the previous year and a market value of only $173 million, THQ had the possibility of being acquired by other companies. In March 2009, THQ spun off Heavy Iron Studios and Incinerator Studios as independent companies, and announced it was looking to sell Big Huge Games. Two months later in May 2009, THQ agreed to sell Big Huge Games to 38 Studios. In August 2009, THQ acquired Midway Studios San Diego for $200,000. The sale of the studio included all assets, except for the TNA iMPACT! video game.
In February 2010, THQ announced that Juice Games and Rainbow Studios would be part of a reshuffle, and would now bear the title THQ Digital Warrington and THQ Digital Phoenix, respectively. It is said that 60 members of staff face redundancies between THQ's US Rainbow studio and the UK Juice Game's studio. In August 2010, THQ unveiled the uDraw GameTablet, a $70 accessory for Nintendo's Wii console that lets gamers draw and play on their television screens. The white, 9-by-7-inch peripheral houses a Wii Remote on the left, with a doodle pad and tethered stylus on the right. THQ said more software for the uDraw would launch every couple of months. In November 2011, a uDraw for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was released. However, it was a commercial failure, and is considered one of the main causes of the financial woes that broke up the company. In January 2011, THQ sold off its Wireless division to a Swedish mobile company called 24MAS. On January 12, 2011, THQ unveiled its new logo. In March 2011, THQ, after its game Homefront was released, suffered a 26% stock drop. The large drop was speculated to be a result of Homefront's poor reception. On June 13, 2011, THQ announced the closure of Kaos Studios (the developer of Homefront) and THQ Digital Warrington (formerly Juice Games). On July 27, 2011, THQ announced it was dropping the long running Red Faction franchise. This was believed to be due to the poor reception over the latest game in the franchise, Red Faction: Armageddon. In the same year on August 9, 2011, THQ announced it would shift its development focus away from licensed kids and movie-based titles by closing down THQ Studio Australia and Blue Tongue in order to focus on "high-quality owned IP." The company also closed down THQ Digital Phoenix (formerly Rainbow Studios), thus dropping the MX vs. ATV franchise. In May 2012, THQ reported a net loss of $239.9 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. The loss was $100 million more than the previous fiscal year's loss of $136.1 million. THQ filed a notice with the SEC on May 25 for a June 29 stockholder's meeting, where THQ asked stockholders to approve a reverse split of the company's common stock. On June 4, 2012, THQ announced a deal to turn over their license for UFC games to Electronic Arts. In July 2012, THQ reported that its stockholders had approved the 1-for-10 reverse share split of its common stock to avert a delisting from the NASDAQ.
Bankruptcy and liquidation
On November 13, 2012, THQ reported that they had defaulted on a $50 million loan from Wells Fargo and were on the verge of bankruptcy. With its stock price plummeting from early November values bordering on $3 down to $1.16 and with long-term liabilities of $250 million, THQ was forced to delay the release dates of its flagship titles Company of Heroes 2 and Metro: Last Light to March 2013. On November 29, 2012, THQ partnered with Humble Bundle to launch the Humble THQ Bundle in an effort to raise more money. By December 12, 2012, THQ sold nearly 800,000 bundles, raising around $5 million; THQ President Jason Rubin also made a purchase, spending $11,050 on the bundle. On December 19, 2012, just days after the Humble THQ bundle ended, THQ filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. On January 22, 2013, creditors approved an auction of THQ's properties individually. The Homefront franchise was acquired by Crytek (whose UK studio was developing its sequel prior to the auction), Relic Entertainment and the video game rights to the Warhammer 40,000 series were sold to Sega, and publishing rights to Turtle Rock Studios' "Evolve" project and the WWE series were acquired by Take-Two Interactive. Ubisoft acquired THQ Montreal and the publishing rights to South Park: The Stick of Truth while the publishing rights to the Metro franchise and Volition, Inc. were acquired by Koch Media. Vigil Games and THQ's publishing unit are still included in the Chapter 11 case although all employees related to these entities were laid off. In a posting on Twitter, Platinum Games' producer Atsushi Inaba expressed interest in acquiring the Darksiders franchise from THQ. On February 26, THQ announced that it would sell off its remaining properties – the Darksiders, Homeworld, Red Faction, and Destroy All Humans! franchises, as well as its licensed and original properties in a court-approved auction which would be held from April 1 to April 15, with the process completed by May. All of THQ's remaining franchises, including the remainder of its original IPs (aside from Homeworld, which was acquired by Gearbox Software, and Drawn to Life, acquired by 505 Games) and licensed software, were auctioned to Nordic Games.
Creditors initially said the proposed sale of THQ in bankruptcy court benefited current THQ management, including Rubin Early Creditor objections and court documents were not kind to THQ management. These criticisms were ultimately proven unfounded. Though not as widely publicized as the initial criticism, Judge Walwrath put an end to the entire mismanagement line of argument when she called it a "conspiracy theory" on the record. Even more telling, the same Creditors that made the initial accusations ultimately took the unusual step of releasing THQ Management, including Rubin, of any malfeasance in the Company's Official Plan of Liquidation
Handling the sale of THQ was Centerview Partners. Skip Paul, a former colleague of Jason Rubin, helped orchestrate the proposed stalking horse bid that was ultimately denied by Judge Mary F. Walrath.
In September 2013, the UK's Blitz Games Studios closed down having run into funding difficulties. The company's CEO Philip Oliver said that the demise of THQ, a major client, had hit them particularly hard.
- External Development Group (XDG) was founded in 2006 to streamline THQ's outsourcing initiatives. In 2008, the group opened a headquarters in Shanghai, China to transition from traditional business to business outsourcing methods to a form of distributed development.
- Play THQ, used for THQ's family-oriented games beginning in 2007. The label was primarily used to publish licensed games for Disney, Pixar, and Nickelodeon titles.
- THQ Wireless
- Concrete Games in Carlsbad, California, founded in 2004, closed January 2008.
- Heavy Iron Studios in Los Angeles, California, founded in 1999, spun off in March 2009.
- Helixe in Burlington, Massachusetts, founded in July 2000, closed November 2008.
- Incinerator Studios in Carlsbad, California, founded in 2005, spun off in March 2009.
- Locomotive Games in Santa Clara, California, founded as DT Productions in 1997, then Pacific Coast Power & Light, acquired in 1999, closed November 2010.
- Mass Media in California, founded in the late 1980s, acquired in 2007, spun off in November 2008.
- Outrage Games in Ann Arbor, Michigan, founded as Outrage Entertainment in December 1997, acquired April 4, 2002, closed in 2004.
- Paradigm Entertainment in Addison, Texas, founded in 1998, acquired from Atari in May 2006, closed November 2008.
- Sandblast Games in Kirkland, Washington, founded in August 2002 as Cranky Pants Games, closed November 2008.
- Universomo in Tampere, Finland, founded in 2002, acquired in May 2007, closed March 2, 2010.
- Kaos Studios in New York City, started in 2006. Closed June 13, 2011.
- THQ Digital Studios UK in United Kingdom, founded as Juice Games in 2003, acquired in 2006, Closed June 13, 2011.
- Blue Tongue in Melbourne, Australia, founded in 1995, acquired in November 2004, closed 2011.
- THQ Digital Phoenix in Arizona, founded as Rainbow Studios in 1996, acquired in 2001, Closed 2011.
- THQ Studio Australia in Brisbane, started in January 2003, closed August 9, 2011.
- THQ Japan, the company's Japanese-publishing subsidiary, ceased all of its operations on February 29, 2012. An alternative publishing partner for THQ's games in Japan was not announced. In spite of this, THQ's last expected title in Japan, Darksiders II, was released on the planned platforms the following October, but is not expected for Wii U the following December.
- THQ Studio San Diego in San Diego, California, acquired from Midway Games in August 2009, closed June 4, 2012.
- THQ Asia Pacific in Melbourne, Australia, founded in 2000 as THQ's Australian subsidiary, closing down late 2012–2013. Was responsible for distribution of games from Sega of Europe from 2002 to 2007 and is currently responsible for distribution of Capcom Europe's products from 2009. THQ Asia Pacific was previously distributor for Capcom Europe in Australia from 2002 to 2007, when distribution was moved to Red Ant Enterprises, who went bankrupt in 2009.
- Vigil Games in Austin, Texas, founded in 2005, acquired in 2006, closed in 2013.
- Big Huge Games in Timonium, Maryland, founded in February 2000, acquired in January 2008, sold to 38 Studios in May 2009, defunct with the closure of 38 Studios in mid-2012.
- ValuSoft in Minneapolis, founded in 1997, acquired in 2002 and sold to Cosmi on 2012.
- Relic Entertainment in Vancouver, founded in May 1997, acquired in May 2004. Sold to Sega on January 22, 2013.
- Volition in Champaign, Illinois, founded in November 1996, acquired in September 2000. Sold to Deep Silver on January 22, 2013.
- THQ Studio Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, founded in October 2010 is THQ's first North American studio that was not acquired. It is also described to be THQ's largest studio hiring more than 500 employees. Sold to Ubisoft on January 22, 2013.
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