THQ Defends the Homefront: Life Imitating Art Edition
Despite massive investments on the front end, most publishers abandon recently released boxed titles, leaving to fend for themselves like orphans in Dickens' London. Can anyone point to support for Ride from Activision, or Saboteur from EA after launch. Even Mercenaries 2 was left flapping in the wind. But THQ either picked something up during the development of Homefront - thank you John Milius - or chose this time to display the massive set of balls tucked away in the closet for so many years.
As I wrote a couple days ago, the company took an unfair valuation hit due to the compounding effect of a low Metashitic score coupled with an overzealous gaming press. The press ignored the downward trend of the entire industry for the days leading up to the decline and slammed THQ, leading to uncertainty in the financial market. Those guys in mainstream somehow believe the game journalists are experts and use their drivel to provide advice to their clients. The problem is exacerbated by the publisher silence endemic to boxed game release. For a nano second it looked like it might be business at usual at THQ. The press reported the low Metashitic score, and the company was silent. Then the press gleefully reported price cuts at Walmart and Amazon - bite the hand that feeds you much? Then, with the responsiveness of a protective parent, THQ immediately went on the offensive citing first day sales of 375k units. Knowing the nature of the gaming press, THQ took it direct to the world. Mainstream outlets like USA Today and Forbes printed the real story and questioned Metashitic. Unlike the apparently biased James Brightman of Industry Gamers who feels a strange compulsion to add unsupported personal negative commentary to every positive statement, these outlets reported THQ's statements and statements from the company, and analyst reports, shockingly, as analyst reports without commentary. THQ further stuck back regarding the price reductions indicating they were one day only and not an attempt at inventory clearance.
With a strong air campaign in effect, THQ put boots on the ground. Danny Bilson led the charge with his announcement of the need to add servers for multiplayer. He has been touting multiplayer all along and judging by the server access and forums, people seem to like it. I would like to think THQ did not have their hand in it, but in stark contrast to their own review Joystiq posted a curiously positive metareview with each excerpt nailing the THQ multiplayer talking points. I would like to think Joystiq is independent and they did it on their own, but it was posted the same day as a bunch of other THQ posts which give it the feel of coming out of a press call. Anyone who remembers the initially negative reviews of COD: Modern Warfare 2's single player knows multiplayer is the key to longevity for a shooter and THQ is wise to make it a focus of the fight.
I am not going to defend Homefront as the greatest title ever made. There is no question it is a waffle product. Fully baked and hints of greatness in some spots, raw in others and burned in a few more. The title, the sales, the quality and the longevity are completely irrelevant The question the financial community should be asking is not how the critics like it, but whether it will sell. THQ set a realistic goal for break even and a number of analysts are confident they will hit the goal. The message to take away from the launch is there is a new THQ. THQ can now stand proudly as the shining publisher on the hill that supports its developers and stands proudly behind its own product, even after it is out the door. While the gaming press does not have the ability to sense the humiliation of being so completely wrong and change, THQ gained credibility in the eyes of the consumers, Wall Street and the mainstream.