The CEO of THQ, Brian Farrell, has been discussing his games industry strategy with Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury, giving some specific focus on the publisher’s dealings with developers – saying that the company has gained studio trust by maintaining a focus on entertainment and keeping away from the ‘packaged goods’ model followed by other bigger publishers.
"You can’t rush the process," he said of games development, but added that the publisher’s business acumen has tempered some temptations to take a ‘ready when it’s ready’ approach: "You know some guys that never finish a game. At some point, you need a closer. Someone who says it’s good enough to get a 90 percent rating, and not take another two years to get a 92 percent but it misses the window. That’s the art. The point I was making before. Developers are now starting to trust us."
And with specific reference to Supreme Commander from Chris Taylor’s Gas Powered Games, he said: "We aren’t telling people like Chris that we need that product in Q4 of 2007. We say, ‘Chris, you tell us when it’s going to ship.’ We won’t put it in our plans until we have the visibility. Deliver a great game but don’t keep iterating until it’s dead. Get it right. When you get the developer’s trust, and they sit down with our guys and we talk about the critical things that need to be done, then they know it’s not about rushing it out. On the other hand, they know there is a market window that they don’t want to miss."
That approach, he said was opposed to that pursued by THQ’s publisher rivals, who it was implied put pressure on developers to finish games for financial deadlines.
"One of the publishers is really going fully staffed in adopting a consumer packaged goods model," said Farrell. "That can be very successful because there are a lot of consumer packaged goods aspects to this industry. But if anyone, including THQ, forgets that at the end of the day we’re entertaining people, we’re not just providing a product, we’re providing entertainment that consumers can choose to adopt or not – those that forget that do so at their peril.
"I don’t think our development community feels we’re abusing them," he added, saying: "The business model is changing. When I got into the business in the 8-bit days, we would pay an external developer $200,000 against a royalty of $2 a unit. If the game sold a million units, the developer cost was $200,000, the profit was $1.8 million. It was a good business. Now if development costs are $15 million to $20 million, there is no royalty in the world that can give you leverage in your business anymore."