THQ to focus on making ‘core games’

Publisher taps Danny Bilson to develop titles

THQ is ready for a reboot.

After spending months eliminating staff and cutting development costs, the Los Angeles videogame publisher is refocusing its efforts on making franchisable properties that it can also exploit as movies, TV shows and comicbooks.

It’s turned to Hollywood scribe Danny Bilson (behind the feature “The Rocketeer” and TV shows “The Flash” and “The Sentinel”) to develop what it considers core games, one of three units; the other two are: kids, family and casual games (as one unit) and online titles.

Bilson is hardly new to the games biz, having served as senior VP of creative development at THQ for the past year and a half. He also helped develop “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing” as well as “The Sims,” “Medal of Honor” and “Harry Potter” franchises at Electronic Arts as VP of intellectual property development and as creative director of EA’s worldwide studios.

As executive VP, core games, Bilson will oversee production and marketing of action, shooter, strategy, racing and fighting games that include the recently launched “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” WWE’s “Smackdown vs. Raw,” UFC’s first foray into games — the company’s most successful launch in years — and upcoming “Darksiders” and “MX vs. ATV Reflex.” “Homefront” and “Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine” bow next year.

Bilson plans to develop movies, TV shows, comicbooks, iPhone apps, webisodes and toys based on future games that will give consumers “other ways to have fun with the brands,” he said, but also provide some extra marketing muscle.

“In order to make our games more important when they hit, you have to leverage other media platforms,” Bilson added.

Move makes THQ the latest gamemaker to take a more cross-platform approach to titles.

It’s a move that makes sense, considering the videogames biz has grown into a $22 billion industry, and its top games have become just as high-profile as Hollywood tentpoles or the most viewed shows on TV. Branching games into other platforms also adds to a publisher’s bottom line.

“I see this as a tremendous opportunity to build a portfolio of owned franchises for THQ,” Bilson said.

In addition to Bilson’s new post, THQ has upped Doug Clemmer to exec VP, kids, family and casual games, shepherding the “Marvel Super Hero Squad,” “Disney-Pixar’s Cars Race O’Rama,” NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and “James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club” licenses. Steve Dauterman has been upped to senior VP, online. He will continue to work from THQ’s Asia Pacific headquarters and create Web versions of its WWE, “Company of Heroes” and “Warhammer 40,000” games.

The three new units will produce THQ’s lineup of games moving forward, with each unit manager reporting directly to THQ prexy and CEO Brian Farrell.

Company also upped Ian Curran, formerly exec VP, international, to executive VP, global publishing, and he will oversee worldwide sales for THQ.

In the past, development at THQ had been less organized, with the company simply pulling the trigger on too many titles it wanted to make but didn’t necessarily match up with a specific demo or offer up possibilities to expand to other platforms.

In February, THQ said it was cutting $220 million from its budget, which involved the pinkslipping of 24% of its workforce, closure of several studios and cancellation of several titles that had been in the works.

“The new structure specifically aligns our primary business units with our product strategy, enabling each team to focus on planning and execution in highly defined product areas with full profit-and-loss responsibility,” Farrell said.

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