Can THQ ever catch a break? It seems that every time they release even the most moderate of gaming hits, they get cocky and blow it all on crummy sequels, cutting their balance sheet short. The newest victim? The shutdown of the Red Faction series a mere two years after its revival got me excited about the company’s prospects.
I’ve always written THQ as a C-tier publisher along the likes of Acclaim (who went belly up in 2004) and Midway (who followed in 2009). You simply can’t exist long by coming out with crummy games. I don’t know about you, but the company is WWE games (that I don’t care about) and licensed kid titles (that I also didn’t care about), so it seemed like they were effectively skating by for the longest time. I didn’t get to play the first two Red Faction games, but even when I tried out a multi-player demo for Guerrilla in 2008, I wasn’t impressed. A single-player demo won me over a year later and the game became my personal Game of the Year. It wasn’t perfect by any means: it was a little repetitive and the endless Martian deserts were never endearing, but between the solid gunplay and the piecemeal destruction of every structure in the game – using everything from hammers to massive trucks – the game was an absolute blast. The same thing also happened with Saints Row, a game I had passed off as a mere Grand Theft Auto knock-off, but eventually came to love it for being so damn fun.
THQ tried to pipe up the release of its follow-up Red Faction title, Armageddon, with a bigger ad campaign, an XBLA/PSN downloadable vehicle combat tie-in game called Battlegrounds, and even a Syfy Channel series starring Robert Patrick (T-1000 from Terminator 2), but I saw trouble from the first trailer. Ditching the open-world playground of Guerrilla, the game took you mostly underground to fight, uh, bug things, in dimly-lit linear missions, effectively excising the fun from the game. The critics agreed and so did the consumer, so THQ revealed that because of both Armageddon and Battlegrounds‘ poor sales, the franchise is effectively shelved. This sounds like one of the worst solutions for the company considering Red Faction is capable of so much more. That a bad sequel ruined the entire cake is sad.
CEO Brian Farrell has expressed that their next quarter should be their best ever, in part because of the release of Saints Row: The Third, another WWE game, and the uDraw game/tablet. Well, best of luck to them because I hope these series don’t sink because of THQ’s bad business decisions.