New THQ: Just what gaming needs

Opinion: Andy Robinson senses a new industry giant on the horizon...

Frankly, THQ's fancy pants new logo isn't much to get excited about. A couple of grey block letters and one red squiggly Q are hardly going to set the games industry on fire - but consider this: the company behind them just might.

When you tot up THQ's refreshing new line-up, strategy, attitude and enthusiasm, you've got a business which truly threatens to wrong foot its biggest rivals. Here's looking at you, Bobby K.

That realisation is all the more remarkable when you remember what having 'THQ' on a game box used to stand for. Unreliable, uninspiring... unexciting. Let's be honest; five years ago all we relied on the company for was the odd Warhammer 40k title and the latest RTS gem from Company of Heroes house, Relic.


But in the last 18 months it's clear something's very different at the firm. The complete reliance on garish licensed kids' games and WWE has gone. Since 2008, THQ has boasted UFC Undisputed - a huge success and subject of stellar reviews - Red Faction: Guerrilla - one of our favourite sandbox games ever - Darksiders: Wrath of War - already a cult classic - and murky Moscow shooter, Metro 2033.

Make no mistake: THQ is a company that's obviously taken a long, hard look at itself and made some painful decisions. Most excitingly, the aforementioned titles don't even signify "new THQ" shifting into gear - in truth, it's not even left the garage yet.

Core games boss Danny Bilson - a charismatic, passionate exec who's quickly propelled himself into our list of favourites - has commissioned sequels to fan staples Darksiders and Metro 2033, along with a more cinematic and thoughtful Red Faction set to land early next year. Then there's the fresh IP of hugely promising FPS Homefront - 2011's first real contender to CoD's throne, with a unique, unsettling backstory that cleverly chimes with the vulnerable, recessionary economic conditions outside your window.

However, the publisher's ambition and dedication to transforming itself into a creative powerhouse is no better represented than by its list of recent hirings, some made in conjunction by its recently formed Partners programme.

Core games boss, Danny Bilson

Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki has been snagged to construct action game Devil's Third; Hollywood director Guillermo del Toro has committed to a trilogy of horror games; industry great Tim Schafer is working on download titles; and Patrice Désilets, the creative force behind Assassin's Creed, is forming a brand new studio in Montreal to develop fresh IP.

These auteurs aren't only respected by gamers everywhere, they're often openly cherished. Their employment suggests that someone holding the purse strings at THQ, erm, HQ, actually understands what makes gamers - real gamers - tick.

It doesn't matter if you're EA, Activision or Microsoft - THQ's new friends will be making rivals turn a tinge of green. 12 months ago Bilson insisted Darksiders, Red Faction et al were just the first tiny seeds of what his new regime was bringing to THQ - and that the best was yet to come. He wasn't lying.

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