This was a long time coming, and quite frankly, I thought this was going to happen sooner. However, this past week, the game industry officially saw the end of one of its once-great publishers, THQ, after seeing all of its assets sold off to the highest bidders. For some more detail on that, I’ll just refer you to this IGN article, as they pretty much cover everything you need to know regarding the sale. THQ did originally intend to use bankruptcy as a means to keep the company going, but that fell through, so they had little choice, in the end. As a result, a great many people have lost their jobs after sticking with a company that was, let’s be honest, a sinking ship that simply couldn’t plug its holes.
THQ wasn’t my favorite publisher ever, as I really didn’t play much of their titles beyond the WWE franchise, but I actually have some rather fond memories of those. Yes, believe it or not, I used to watch wrestling. It was a brief stint that lasted across my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school, as my brothers and I found it immensely entertaining, but it teetered off once a lot of the great wrestlers left the company. We really got into it thanks to one of my brother’s friends and, you guessed it, a WWE video game. It was WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth for the PlayStation 2, to be precise. Ah, such silly titles.
The real highlight of the series was WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain, also for the PlayStation 2. I cannot tell you how many hours I sank into that game between playing through the completely open-ended career mode (perhaps the only one in the series worth any merit), creating crap-tons of superstars that ranged from Ninja Turtles to video game characters, and playing matches against my brothers. No, seriously, I can’t tell you. I lost my save file years ago, unfortunately. It is a shame that Hero Comes the Pain, being released in 2003, was the last truly amazing WWE game released besides the GameCube-exclusive Day of Reckoning series, meaning everything since then just wasn’t nearly as good. Well, Smackdown! VS RAW 2006 was pretty damn good, but still not of the same caliber. It’ll be interesting to see what Take Two does with the franchise, unless the WWE forms some sort of discrepancy similar to what seems to be going on with South Park.
Beyond that franchise, though, I really didn’t play very much that THQ happened to publish. Red Faction: Guerrilla was a solid open-world title that happened to take place on Mars and featured lots of building destruction with some rather impressive physics. WCW VS NWO: World Tour for Nintendo 64 was and still is perhaps the best wrestling title I’ve ever played, with a grappling system that truly revolutionized wrestling games and a massive roster that extended well beyond just the two title brands. I easily sank over 100 hours on that playing with my brothers. Reaching way back, they even published the crazy-hard The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! for the Super Nintendo, which I remember playing when I was very young and now proudly own a copy, thanks to my oldest brother. Those are probably the most notable that I’ve played, personally. You can see an entire list of titles they’ve published here, courtesy of Wikipedia.
We have no choice but to turn the page. This is really just another company added to the growing list of victims of an industry that is hitting its biggest lows since it crashed and burned in the 80’s. What could be seen as a result, we’re finding a lot of companies now beginning to work together, something I want to touch on in a later post, in fact. In a world where mobile games and digital media are on the rise, the prices of game consoles fail to drop, and a generation of gaming that is simply taking too long to end, news like this is commonplace. As a lifelong gamer, stories like this always make my heart sink. I never thought I’d see things this bad in my lifetime, seeing this industry grow and thrive as I grew up, myself. Unfortunately, this is simply the reality of things. All I can do- hell, all we can do is continue to support the industry as best we can, and considering the state of the economy, that’s not that easy for all of us. I buy games at launch, I try to buy them new at a later date when I don’t, and I’m constantly posting here, on Facebook, and on Twitter about video games, getting the word out there on what’s good and what news there is to share. I’d like to think that what I do is helping in some way, by giving games exposure. It doesn’t just end with people like you and me, though. Other publishers need to take notice of THQ’s mistakes and try to remedy their own ways of doing things so that they don’t wind up sharing the same fate, because I’ll be damned if I watch franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man being auctioned off to the highest bidder. If the fall of a once-prominent publisher isn’t a swift kick in the ass, then I don’t know what is.