THQ split-up complete as competitors take pieces

Koch Media snares 'Saint's Row' franchise rights

THQ, once the third-largest publisher in the videogame industry, is no more.

A bankruptcy auction, concluded Wednesday, has broken up the company into pieces and sold them to competitors, along with its key videogame titles and licenses, dashing executives’ hopes that it could remain intact with the help of a corporate white knight.

In December, THQ announced plans to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with an outside investor (represented by Clearview Capital) planning to purchase the company en masse for $60 million, paying off creditors and allowing THQ to continue working as normal.

Early this year, however, THQ’s lenders objected to that plan, alleging it was “orchestrated to benefit the company’s newest executives and their friends at a financial firm hired to sell THQ.”

The bankruptcy hearing was delayed so additional bids could be made — and those bids ultimately topped the original offer.

Koch Media captured the “Saint’s Row” franchise rights, arguably the crown jewel at THQ, paying $22.3 million for the franchise and its developer Volition Studios. Sega, meanwhile, won the upcoming “Company of Heroes” game as well as developer Relic for $26.6 million (barely beating a bid from Zenimax Media).

— Ubisoft walked away with the rights to the game based on Comedy Central’s “South Park” — paying $3.3 million for the game. The company also acquired THQ’s Montreal studio and the two games it was working on (the unannounced “1666” and “Underdog”) for $2.5 million. (Patrice Desilets, who oversaw the first entries in Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise before leaving the company in 2010, runs that studio.)

— Still unknown is the fate of THQ’s WWE games. While the license will likely revert back to the wrestling company, it will have to find an interested party to continue making the titles. Already, Take-Two Interactive is said to be the most likely home, beating out Electronic Arts.

Bids for other properties topped $16 million. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court overseeing the case must still approve the purchases, but that’s largely considered a technicality at this point.

While most major studios were sold, not every THQ property found a new home. Austin developer Vigil Games (makers of the” Darksiders” franchise) did not fetch a bidder and will likely close — and most of the headquarters staff will also be laid off. THQ did not release precise numbers.

“It has been our privilege to work alongside the entire THQ team,” wrote CEO Brian Farrell and President Jason Rubin in a note to staff that was obtained by game site Kotaku. “While the company will cease to exist, we are heartened that the majority of our studios and games will continue under new ownership. We were hoping that the entire company would remain intact, but we expect to hear good news from each of the separate entities that will be operating as part of new organizations. … Thank you all for your dedication and for sharing your talent with the THQ team.”

(Marc Graser contributed to this report).