Will Marvel Buy THQ Games?

Let us connect some dots.

Video game company THQ used to be worth $2 billion. It now dips just below $35 million. Quite a fall. If it was overvalued before, it is likely to be undervalued now.

Sega recently lost its licenses to produce Marvel video games and now Marvel is …looking for publishing opportunities

“previously reported in September 2011 that the license for the characters had reverted back to Marvel – hence, no more Sega – and that they were looking for publishing opportunities from other potential partners. With Jefferson hinting at incoming announcements, perhaps they found someone?”

THQ cancelled their latest Marvel game, written by Brian Bendis, last year to concentrate on their own intellectual properties. Marvel is now seeking a new home for the THQ cancelled Avengers game.

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Or are they?

Is the opportunity Marvel is looking for is to produce video games in-house, as they now do with movies?

Here is an interview with TQ Jefferson, VP games production for Marvel

Q: What role do video games play today for Marvel?

Jefferson: Over the past decade or so, video games have become more and more important as a means to reach out to existing fans, find new ones and to innovate in the ways that we present our characters and tell stories.

Q: Will Sega still be making Thor, Captain America and Iron Man games?

Jefferson: There are no current plans for additional Marvel games to be published by Sega.

Are Marvel displeased with licensed games?

Q: Do you think we’re seeing fewer movie-licensed games today in the industry, and why do comics seem to be the exception?

Jefferson: In my opinion, the biggest afflictions affecting movie-licensed games is the amount of development time and a strict adherence to retelling the story of the film in the form of a game. The former is easy to understand — less development time means less time to design, produce and polish the game, resulting in a poor or lesser-quality experience. The latter is a little more subtle, but I can sum it up thusly: … In order to hit the expected amount of gameplay, you need to embellish, add additional characters, story, subplots and objectives to make a more robust and satisfying experience. That’s where a lot of movie licenses fall down – lack of content.

If THQ was under Marvel’s control, it would no longer be a licensed game.

Marvel is already producing its own movies at Marvel Studios (and had been even prior to the Disney acquisition). But in general video games are more lucrative than movies. Marvel has licensed hundreds of games. How much money could they have made if developed and released in house?

And what about Disney?

“Iger revealed that Disney may soon start publishing games on Marvel properties. Iger didn’t elaborate on when or how Disney would begin publishing Marvel video games so it could be some time before we see a Spider-Man game with a Disney Interactive label instead of an Activision one.

Currently most of the Marvel video game properties belong to a variety of companies such as Activision (Marvel comic universe, Spider-Man/X-Men film properties), Sega (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America film properties) and THQ (Marvel animated properties). Activsion has the Marvel license locked up for a few more years but the exact contract details for Sega and THQ aren’t known. So it’ll be interesting to see how Disney goes about publishing Marvel games and whether it’ll be a case of waiting for the existing contracts to expire or if Disney will simply buy out the remaining contracts and throw bundles of cash at companies like Activsion and Sega.”

Time passed…

“The recent Disney results also echoed the belief that Marvel games would be good for the higher-end, more “hardcore” Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 demographic which some Disney properties have a more difficult time reaching.

However, since a number of third-party game publishers currently have agreements with Marvel — for example, Sega for the upcoming Iron Man 2 game — it appears that it may be some time before all major Marvel properties free up for Disney control in terms of video games.

As for what branding these titles would be released under, Disney’s Wadsworth told Gamasutra: “If we do things under the Marvel brand it may just be [marked on the box] under the Marvel brand.” He added that it also might be a joint Marvel/Disney brand in some cases.”

More time has passed. Those licences are now free. And Marvel might be in the market for a team.

“Darksiders 2 was a lot quicker to get done because we already had an established team, they were experienced and we had already made one game. When we first did the first Darksiders we had four people at the beginning. We didn’t even have a decent sized team for over a year. We didn’t have an engine. We were still building the technology and the tools. We didn’t have designers…we didn’t have anything. So it’s hard to count the first year and a half, or so, of the first game. But we did get Darksiders 2 done in half the time, because we already had a team ready. Building a good team, literally, takes years.

That’s what Joe Madureira of THQ’s Vigil Games says. Yes, Joe Madureira artist of Avenging Spider-Man, and designer of the Darksiders games. Catch up with him here.

This month, Marvel changed the title of their staff member, Chris Baker, who works on licensed video games from “Manager of Licensed Games” to “Interactive Manager”. With the assumption that change is in the air…

Could Marvel buy THQ, at significant discount, and get a significantly developed Avengers game in the process, bringing the whole operation in house?

This article is purely speculation based on circumstantial evidence and a feeling in the air. Just like this one.

Thanks to BIC’s Bickerings for considerable assistance with this article.

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