Sunday, January 27, 2013

For Sale: One Game Publisher (Slightly Used But In Good Condition)

It seems like the dust has settled on the fallout from THQ's bankruptcy sale, and it's not great news all around (see below).

THQ were initially going to sell to one company, set up as THQ2 and continue life fairly unchanged, but the bankruptcy court decided that if separate bids on all of THQ's assets exceeded the $60m bid already tabled for the entire company then a piecemeal sale it would be, and that's precisely what happened.

The two biggest items when it comes to PC gaming concerned South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Vigil Games.  Ubisoft picked up the rights to publish South Park, but the matter has been further complicated by South Park Studios filing a motion with the court to invalidate the sale of the rights to Ubisoft, stating that their own contract with THQ prevents any transfer of the licence they granted, provided they repay all monies received from THQ to date.  Theoretically this would mean they could "buy back" the game from THQ and then shop it around to any publisher they wanted, which would likely be an easy sell since the game at this point is probably almost complete.  The court has yet to rule on SPS's motion, and it is unclear when they will do so.  The cynical part of me expects this to be resolved by Ubisoft throwing a pile of money at SPS to make their objections go away.

The second aspect of the sale was the sad news that Vigil Games (developers of the Darksiders series) received no bids and have therefore been shuttered.  Vigil were also developing the Warhammer 40k MMO, which was later scaled back to be a single-player game, before THQ stopped talking about it completely.  This probably means that the game will never see the light of day, especially now Vigil is defunct, although THQ stated that they would continue to make "every effort" to sell those assets which have not yet been disposed of (presumably including Vigil).  Vigil was a solid developer and both Darksiders games were well-received by gamers and the industry, so it's truly tragic that no one decided to buy them.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the South Park situation pans out, and whether Ubisoft get to keep their publishing rights or if they revert to SPS.  Either way, it's now highly unlikely the game will make its March 2013 release date.  I would expect this to be pushed back to much later in the year, perhaps late summer at the earliest.  We can only hope that the game itself does not suffer as a result of this.

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