The lights are on
Yesterday's announcement regarding the second of THQ's intellectual property auctions yielded surprising results. Not only did Gearbox take home fan favorite real-time strategy franchise Homeworld, but out of seemingly nowhere came Nordic Games Publishing to scoop up almost everything else. Game Informer had a chance to speak with Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors about his company and the future of beloved series including Darksiders and Red Faction.
In order to understand the decision to pursue these vastly different properties, it's critical to know about Nordic Games Publishing's history. "I've been in the industry for 20 years. I've been doing everything from mail order to retail and trading with a lot of THQ products over the years," Wingefors told us.
"I know from the commercial viewpoint, I know these products very well, all those IPs. We have another business called Game Outlet Europe where we have made a lot of money, but it has been declining. What we have done is taken the profit from that business and invested it into this new business."
THQ's bankruptcy wasn't the first from which parent company Nordic Games Holding benefited. The company acquired JoWood, publisher of the Painkiller series, Torchlight, and The Book of Unwritten Tales, in November 2011. By extension, this gave Nordic ownership of Canadian publisher Dreamcatcher. With those acquisitions, Nordic Games Publishing was founded.
Wingefors and his team have been in contact with THQ since shortly after bankruptcy was declared in December 2012. To the public, Nordic Games seemed to have come on the scene quickly, but as Wingefors explained, "We've been in conversation with THQ since January. We signed all the NDAs in January."
"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."
Nordic Games Publishing was interested in Darksiders and Red Faction from the start, but was not interested in bringing on a development studio.
"We have to be very honest. I am a business man within the games industry. We are not the creative, talented developer that brings out new versions in house," Wingefors stated. "I understand the potential of the IPs. I respect the original creators and the creative people who are able to create sequels. In the past 24 hours, we have been contacted and there have been a few discussions (but I can't confirm names)."
"I'm impressed with the love and interest that those IPs, especially Darksiders, are bringing it. You can see Nordic Game as a middle man in order to create great new sequels. If we can find the right team with the right terms, I'm sure we can find the right financial solution to make it happen."
When asked whether conversations had taken place with Crytek USA (made up, in part, of former Vigil Games employees), Wingefors told us, "Officially, we haven't talked to any partners. My colleagues in Austria are handling the business development and are handling all those contacts. We'll be sitting down, I think, in the next week to discuss all those options. It takes a very long time to make games. You won't see a new Darksiders this year. I don't believe in bringing out a s***** sequel."
Certain franchises included in this second auction drew a great deal of attention, and Nordic Games' approach to purchasing most of the offerings raised eyebrows. We asked Wingefors if there was any competition they faced in bringing home more than 50 of THQ's titles.
"We had competition on most of the individual IPs, and I think they were various development studios," he told us. "I know there were other bids on Red Faction and Titan Quest and Darksiders. We had to pay a high premium to get everything, because THQ put a lot of value into them. We paid a fair price.
"We had to bid on each lot, but we told them that we would pay a premium for the whole thing. All things were possible. I decided to go for everything, but they gave me other options. We get the economies of scale and there are a lot of legal costs involved. For just the one game, it would have been harder to make possible."
Given the depth of properties slated for acquisition pending court approval, it's natural to wonder where Nordic Games Publishing will start. "It's hard to say. Each IP has its own merits. I do have a deep love for MX vs ATV," Wingefors admitted. "I have sold loads through the years, and I know it is a big community. I think that will be less tricky to make a good game with."
He also mentioned a much-adored action-RPG as having attracted a lot of interest. "Titan Quest drew a lot of attention in the past 24 hours. There is great love for Titan Quest. I am sure you will see a sequel in the future, but I don't know when."
Nordic's expenditure of $4.9 million is a lot to monetize, and Wingefors and his team have started planning on how to make use of their auction winnings. "I'm sure we can find a solution for at least one of the IPs, or a few of the IPs, this year. Potentially this summer. There will be a lot of discussions at E3, but it's hard to say. I'm very open minded and flexible. I trust a handshake. I just need to find the right people."