Nordic Buys Red Faction, Ross Is Worried [UPDATE]
UPDATE 4/23/13 – A day after securing the purchase of these IPs, Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors has spoken in more detail about the background to this deal to Game Informer. One quote in particular gives us a clue as to the seriousness of Nordic’s ability to produce quality games with their new property:
We were part of the auction in February, but decided not to take part because it was too much cash. Saints Row went for $22 million and Koch bought that development studio with that burn rate on a daily basis. Even though I do have financial resources, I don’t have those kind of resources.
This doesn’t mean we can’t expect potential greatness, but it does put the immediate prospects for new installments of these titles into clearer context. Whatever eventually happens, it will likely be a while before we see anything. Here’s hoping licensees for these franchises will rise to the occasion. We’ll obviously be paying close attention.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
I have good news and bad news for loyal members of the Martian resistance.
The good news: the sad saga of once great publisher THQ has finally come to a dignified end, as the last of the company’s intellectual property has been sold to three different companies in a series of deals totaling $6.55 million. This includes the comatose Red Faction series.
The bad news: any and all hopes that Red Faction be resurrected and restored to its former glories can probably be laid to rest, as the IP has been purchased by notorious shovelware publisher Nordic Games.
Nordic acquired the Red Faction series along with Darksiders, Destroy All Humans!, Summoner, Titan Quest, Frontlines, Stuntman, Juiced, Full Spectrum Warrior, and several of THQ’s licensed titles, in a deal reportedly worth $4.9 million. In a statement posted today, Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors crowed about the acquisitions, saying “First and foremost we are very happy about this deal which also turns over a new leaf for the entire Nordic Games Group.”
One would hope that new leaf would be “not making shit games”, something Nordic has long excelled at. The company is responsible for a rogues gallery of poorly executed games dating back to the early 00s, with Torchlight and the PC port of Alan Wake perhaps its highest profile outings. Both are solid games, but the bulk of the company’s output is garbage like Spellforce and Painkiller.
On the bright side, Wingefors was careful to make it clear in his statement that Nordic doesn’t simply intend to crap out new installments of their latest acquisitions. “In the long term, we either want to cooperate with the original creators or best possible developers in order to work on sequels or additional content for these titles,” he said. “A very important point for us is not to dash into several self-financed multi-million dollar projects right away, but rather to continue our in-depth analysis of all titles and carefully selecting different financing models for developing new installments of acquired IPs.”
What this means is anyone’s guess, but it would seem Nordic is at least superficially taking their new property seriously. The problem is that it isn’t a big company – the company’s biggest hit is the PC port of Alan Wake – and while information about the company’s finances are not readily available, it’s highly unlikely it has the cash on hand to give Red Faction (not to mention Darksiders or Destroy All Humans!) the kind of budget it would need. Why then, did they make the purchase? If I were a betting man, I’d wager their intent is to flip that house, so to speak. They now own a fairly prestigious franchise, one that someone out there might have an interest in acquiring. On the other hand, perhaps the plan is simply to license the title to someone who actually has a budget. Either way, Wingefors’ statement makes it clear that it will be quite a while before we see anything at all.
It’s too bad, of course, that THQ didn’t allow Red Faction to be sold as part of the Volition deal with Koch Media, as the deliberate placement of Red Faction into the Saints Row universe was one of the more charming video game crossovers in recent memory. Volition has already proved they know how to do Red Faction right, and continuing ties with Saints Row would certainly help sales of any new Red Faction game, at least if Saints Row 4 ends up being another hit. But you go to war with the Terrestrial overlords you have, not the ones you want.
When THQ inexplicably ruined the Red Faction series by following up 2009′s excellent Red Faction: Guerilla with Red Faction: Armageddon, a cheap Gears of War clone that flopped, it looked as though the series had been permanently killed off. With the news that the series has been purchased with intent to license rather than develop in the immediate future, selling it to a company like Nordic feels less like resurrection, and more like allowing someone to display the ashes in a house that hasn’t been condemned.
Of course, Nordic has demonstrated a canny knack for handling acquired franchises in the past, even if the games it has published haven’t been shining examples of the industry at its best. We hold out hope that based on Wingefors comments regarding these purchases, the company must have some idea of what they intend to do. Time will tell.
While we continue to mourn Red Faction, at least the rest of THQ’s detritus have more certain prospects. Gearbox Software, still flying high off the success of Borderlands 2, bought the rights to the Homeworld franchise for a paltry $1.35 million. Meanwhile, Drawn to Life and Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter were gobbled up by ARMA dev 505 Games for $300,000.