Row/Warhammer 40,000 publisher THQ has pursued a faulty business
model to the brink of the company's demise, says Take-Two CEO Strauss
Zelnick, predicting that his company's rival has less than six months left in
the market. “Strategy didn't work and the execution was
bad,” Zelnick told attendees at MIT's Business in Gaming
conference: "THQ won't be around in six months.” THQ,
unsurprisingly, disagreed with Zelnick's assessment.
Perhaps figuring that there
hadn't been any really juicy game-industry beefs since the Great FPS
Wars of 2011 claimed so many young lives, Zelnick used the
13-year-old company to highlight the perils of over-reliance on
licensed properties. The Take-Two head characterized THQ's strategy
as “licensed properties, first and foremost. License stuff from
other people, whether it's UFC or WWE or a motion picture property,
and make a game around that.” By comparison, Zelnick says, the 2007
acquisition of Take-Two by ZelnickMedia marked the company's
transition to a policy of “100% owned intellectual property.”
Because licenses must be
periodically renegotiated, publishers reliant on externally-owned IPs
face a quandary, says Zelnick: the best-recieved title will only
drive up the value of its name-brand, forcing the licensee to pay
more to lease the property next time. Zelnick accuses THQ of
answering this dilemma with substandard product: “THQ has had some
good games, but ... the quality hasn't measured up.”
The past year has seen THQ giving up on Red Faction, one of the company's signature IPs over the
past decade; and announcing that its upcoming licensed MMO, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online, is to be stripped of its
mass-multiplayer components amidst large-scale employee cutbacks.
However the company is also preparing for big-scale releases such as
Darksiders II and the licensed South Park RPG.
“Obviously,” THQ has responded, Zelnick's assessment is “outdated and inaccurate,” and
his comments “irresponsible and false. Perhaps he would be better
off commenting on his own business,” says the publisher.
[UPDATE:] "While discussing our strategy I spoke out of turn about someone else’s," Zelnick has told Game Informer: "It was inappropriate and I regret it."