It’s never easy to say goodbye.
Sometimes, though, acceptance comes quickly. All good things must come to an end, after all. But watching THQ go from slow tailspin into inescapable nosedive last week just left me with this wretched knot in my gut. It felt equal parts unreal and all wrong. I mean, here was this fixture of the gaming industry responsible – especially in recent years – for some games I legitimately fell in love with (oh Metro 2033, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Saints Row: The Third, let me count the ways) crashing and burning. And I was powerless to do anything about it. So I just looked on from the sidelines as a vulture storm of other publishers lapped up the remains.
Here’s the thing, though: much as it tears me up to see super talented heads roll, the part that really bothered me concerned THQ as an organization. Because ultimately, it did a whole, whole, whole lot of things right. Or at least, its publishing choices were correct by our traditional, gamerly views of correctness. I mean, the Activisions of the world steer clear of risk and novelty with the cold, calculated expertise of a professional figure skater. An evil figure skater. But while THQ certainly wasn’t innocent of dipping its bucket into a well of stagnation (hi, Homefront), it certainly did its fair share of rolling the dice. Metro 2033 was a shot in the dark, Saints Row evolved into a gloriously unique rainbow cocaine explosion of pure madness, reviving Company of Heroes in a climate where RTSes are (depressingly) near-dead financially may have been madness, etc.
But it died. It died horribly, a fact that can mainly be chalked up to one awful business decision. Kid-friendly doodle peripheral uDraw failed miserably on Xbox 360 and PS3, and – for a company that needed a boost while the digital era forced everyone out of their comfort zones – it was the beginning of the end.