THQ Nordic's necromancy
Even THQ Nordic's name is Frankensteinian. Half of it comes from the company's original moniker, Nordic Games, but the other half is a nod to THQ, a popular-yet-doomed publisher that Nordic absorbed in 2013.
Lars Eric Olof Wingefors founded Nordic Games in 2011, after a few years of attempting to establish physical video-game stores and develop titles in-house. It got a taste for acquisition in its first year as a company, absorbing prolific Austrian publisher JoWooD Entertainment and all of its titles, including the SpellForce series. Nordic Games focused on European publishing and stayed afloat for a few years.
By the time THQ, one of the most popular video-game publishers in North America, filed for bankruptcy in 2013, Nordic was ready to expand its acquisition model. THQ had been around since the early 1990s and it was the powerhouse publisher behind Saints Row, Darksiders, Red Faction, De Blob, Warhammer, official WWE and UFC games, and a litany of other licensed properties.
THQ was publicly falling apart by 2012, bleeding cash and studios, and in December it filed for bankruptcy. This meant THQ was able to liquidate and sell off its assets -- meaning all of its remaining video-game franchises. Speculation flared as to which publishers would pick up the pieces, with Ubisoft, Sega, Take-Two, Crytek and other major names circling their wagons.
There were two rounds of the THQ auction. At the end of the second, one studio had clearly come out with more THQ properties than any other: Nordic Games, a Vienna-based publisher that most North American players had never heard of. Executives went on a mini press tour answering questions like, "Who the fuck is Nordic?"
Nordic spent $4.9 million to acquire Darksiders, Red Faction, MX vs ATV and a handful of other properties. Meanwhile, Sega had spent $26.6 million to pick up Company of Heroes and its studio; Take-Two paid $10.9 million for Evolve; and Koch Media (Deep Silver) paid a combined $28.2 million for Saints Row and Metro. This was a serious investment for Nordic, but in terms of dollars spent, its budget paled in comparison to other established publishers.
"Saints Row went for $22 million and Koch bought that development studio with that burn rate on a daily basis," Wingefors said in 2013. "Even though I do have financial resources, I don't have those kinds of resources."
Nordic Games may not have had that kind of cash, but THQ Nordic certainly does.
The company continued buying up dead franchises from a range of studios, including Atari and DTP Entertainment. It changed its name to THQ Nordic in August 2016, hoping to demonstrate its commitment to THQ's franchises and tap into player nostalgia.
In February of this year, THQ Nordic bought Koch Media, the parent company of Dead Island developer Deep Silver, for €121 million ($140 million). That purchase included the rights to former THQ vehicles Saints Row, Metro and Homefront, the latter of which Koch had previously bought from Crytek.
Today, Nordic Games is the steward of nearly 200 previously-owned properties and it has 10 subsidiary studios, including Koch Media. It also picked up the rights to TimeSplitters and Second Sight this year, but its most recent acquisition, the Kingdoms of Amalur IP from defunct developer 38 Studios, could be its most high-profile resurrection yet.