A giant has fallen. Video game developer and publisher THQ filed for Chapter 11, and like the death of any loved one, it seemed to come out of an impossible nowhere. Right now, video games have bigger budgets than NASA and use more advanced technology. THQ was a billion-dollar company. It had the exclusive license to Disney, Pixar, and WWE games. Selling fake fights to wrestling fans is how you switch your target market to easy mode.
It's also the Konami Code of dick jokes.
THQ wasn't some dot-com disaster or a fartbubble in the filthy shared bathwater of social network gaming. No one's surprised that Zynga is now hemorrhaging money and employees. Zynga's core strategy was "Find the most easily distracted people in the world, then try to hold their attention for several years."
The average FarmVille player can't even pronounce "Zynga."
THQ lost money so quickly and impossibly that Donald Trump thought he was CEO and declared bankruptcy again. I've spent more time with products of THQ than some products of my own family tree, so I'd like to say a few words.
The first thing people ask after any death is what the cause was, and for THQ, the answer was more embarrassing than being found tied to David Carradine.
The most humiliating hara-kiri in history.
The original uDraw was an art accessory for the Wii. This made sense, because by definition Wii owners will buy extremely limited hardware for the sake of some simple fun. But that's because Nintendo has three guaranteed top-notch franchises. (It used to have four, but it gave Metroid to Team NINJA, a company that thinks women need concealed-carry permits to cover their breasts. Metroid: Other M robbed Samus Aran of so much dignity, she was lucky she didn't end up in transparent armor.)
Samus idly remembering when her gender was a non-skintight surprise.
The uDraw still managed to make a few dollars. Then THQ went completely insane by releasing it for the Xbox 360 and PS3. There hasn't been such suicidal marketing since the Alamo's "New Year 1836 Half-Price Ammunition for Mexicans" sale. THQ claimed that market research indicated a "strong demand" for these products, which only proved that THQ shouldn't have slept with market research's wife. That year's top-selling Xbox games were Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, and Battlefield 3. The only color that console's players wanted to paint was red, with close-range shotgun blasts and an enemy corpse.
Marketing a cheap coloring tool to the PS3 crowd was like offering magnetic poetry to stick on the side of a nuclear reactor: Anyone who wants to use such expensive hardware like that isn't allowed near it. They might as well have offered HAL 9000 a Speak & Spell. Over a million unsold units contributed to a company-wide loss of $56 million for the quarter. They would have lost less money if they'd told their CEO to wipe his ass with thousand-dollar bills and locked him in an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. It would have been a more dignified suicide if they'd performed seppuku with a banana and a kazoo soundtrack.
THQ tried to get into the shooter market with Homefront, and you'll only find worse opening moves in a Hellraiser movie. Shooting games are automatically racist. The basic mechanic has to be "anybody on the other side needs to be shot in the face." That's not necessarily a problem. Some games make up harmless imaginary aliens, while other games, like Call of Duty, teach players that anyone with a skin tone or second language has only two hobbies: atrocities and stupidly sticking their heads out of cover. This is the one and only subject in which Duke Nukem is progressive.
That bleeding heart liberal, with his bleeding head enemies.
Homefront turned this automatic racism dial up to 75 million filthy Koreans. It's so ludicrously gung-ho, it would make Red Dawn cheer for the minority characters. The Koreans in Homefront were responsible for more bloody agony than the Koreans in M*A*S*H, and were less sympathetically represented. The cities make City 17 look like Disney World. Koreans contravene the Geneva Conventions like there's an achievement for 100 percent completion. They violated more clauses than a horny reindeer. In the intro, you watch them breaking up families, beating innocent civilians, executing prisoners, and starting a work camp, all through a window both liberally and literally spattered with the blood of patriots.
Subtlety is for communists.
The only reason the video game Koreans don't bite the heads off puppies is because they put too much work into cutting their puppy eyelids off and making them stare at salt. The worst part is that the game clearly thinks it's serious. This could have been the ultimate parody -- Hot Shots: The Shooting unAmericans Game -- but it acts like God personally bled the red into the white and blue to defend America from filthy foreigners. Which is weird, because if he'd wanted to defend America from foreigners, he could have done it much easier with a few hurricanes around 1492. The game was so insanely violent, Rambo would have dropped his guns to give it a hug.
#4. Pit Fighter
Pit Fighter was a Violence Fight-style game. Violence Fight was and will forever remain a Greatest-Name-Ever-style game.
That tagline remains the most passionate thing anyone has ever said to me.
Pit Fighter was one of the first games to realize that you could use digitized graphics instead of gameplay, and THQ's SNES conversion forgot the graphics. The arcade game was a revolution in graphics back when that meant "someone knows how to use a camera." Its only selling point was massive digitized graphics, and THQ released it with tiny sprites. The only thing less fun when shrunk while still screwing people so badly is an actual penis.
The arcade game is accurate, because two men grappling while dressed like that does usually involve joysticks.
Even worse than regular midget pit fights.
The cartridge is a violent attack on the concept of entertainment, and that was its only successful blow. It was so poorly programmed that one character had a Flash-like advantage over the others simply because he had fewer animation frames. It was direct proof that the programmers destroyed everything they touched: He had the upper hand specifically because they spent less time working on him.
The entire soundtrack was a single sample shorter and less melodic than the average ringtone. In 1992. The game had worse collision detection than a ghost, and was less responsive to control than that ghost's original body. If anything should have killed THQ, it was this. Pit Fighter was a worse use of $50 than hiring a sex worker to screw your kid, because at least then one person involved in the disaster would know what they were doing.
So why should we mourn their passing?