Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick says THQ will be dead and buried in six months.
THQ is in trouble. Five years ago its share price was over $36; today it’s a fight to keep it above 50 cents. It’s struggling to avoid NASDAQ delisting, laying off employees and even downgrading the planned Warhammer 40K MMO to a single-player game. But in the eyes of Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, Brian Farrell and company are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Zelnick said at the MIT Business in Gaming conference that THQ’s biggest problem is an over-reliance on licensed properties, which leaves it at the mercy of the license holders. Making a popular licensed game can actually turn around and bite a publisher when it comes time to renew the license, because it will have to pay more to keep the rights to a property it helped make popular in the first place.
But he was also blunt about another of THQ’s issues: Most of its games just aren’t all that exciting. Take-Two has had its fair share of financial issues too, a fact acknowledged by Zelnick, but in terms of their franchise stables there’s just no comparison. Take Two brings all things Rockstar to the table, plus BioShock, Civilization and, hopefully, Xcom. THQ’s biggest titles are Saints Row, WWE, UFC and Warhammer 40K, none of which, with the possible exception of Saints Row, can be considered a true heavyweight.
“The most important difference is quality. Take-Two has the highest quality ratings among third-party publishers, according to Metacritic and most people in the industry. Quality really, really, really matters. THQ has had some good games, but their quality levels aren’t even remotely… the quality hasn’t measured up,” he said. “[The] strategy didn’t work and the execution was bad. To put it another way: the food was no good and the portions were small.”
The bottom line? “THQ won’t be around in six months,” he said.