I’ve said before that I like to not only follow creative mediums but often the businesses behind them as I think it’s valuable to know where the stuff we enjoy comes from. One of my early posts here was about THQ, specifically taking the piss out of Danny Bilson and what I believed was a botched strategy that attempted–and largely failed–to revitalise the company. Since then, THQ’s fortunes have gotten markedly worse with their one potential saving grace of Saint’s Row The Third selling well but not as well as they wanted and rumours of dwindling cash reserves, massive cancellations and the possible sale of the company, which were promptly denied and followed up by a statement that they are dumping licensed games and refocusing on core products. Their stock price is well under a dollar and they will be faced with delisting if they can’t turn things around fast. In short, things are dire at what is still the world’s fourth largest publisher.
This morning, NeoGAF posted a lengthy (and I must say very poorly written) letter from an anonymous group claiming to be made up of ex-employees and shareholders. You can read it for yourself but if its contents are true, it paints a very unflattering picture of the top management and a trend of poor decisions and leadership that goes back many years. It shows that the company’s problems are historically rooted and not just a result of bad luck over the last couple of years but of someone running the show who doesn’t really seem to understand the business they’re in. I still maintain that many strategic and creative decisions made under Danny Bilson’s watch (like turning away Respawn, Homefront and Red Faction Armageddon) were bad ones and hurt the company big. However, it also appears as though many of those bad decisions and many past ones were influenced by an overall poor strategic vision employed by Brian Farrell, long-time CEO. I’m not sure if Bilson’s ideas are what THQ needs to save itself but in light of this new information, I will admit that I was probably harder on him than I needed to be. Plus there’s that whole uDraw things which even before I admitted he had nothing to do with. That facepalmingly dumb project was all Farrell.
Despite a plummeting stock price, botched initiatives, massive layoffs and studio closures, the top echelon’s of THQ’s management still took home millions in compensation, millions the company desperately needs to stay afloat. Yet for some reason, shareholders don’t seem to be fighting for a change. Whether or not Danny Bilson should be there is debatable but at this point, I think there’s no question that the CEO and other members of the company’s leadership don’t know what they’re doing and don’t know how to carry the company forward in a new direction. They need to be kicked to the curb and soon if they want to have any hope of recovering. With so many stories in the news of ruthless shareholder rebellions at other companies just for failing to meet a quarter of two’s expectations, I don’t know how Farrell & Co. have survived this long without being overturned.
As I’ve said before (and will say again), the triple-A video game industry is in a bad way right now and it needs more competition, not less. This is a brutal industry and it requires adaptive leadership with razor-sharp business wit and a pulse on industry trends. Brian Farrell is not providing that and if the open letter is true, hasn’t been for a long time. There are a lot of employees, shareholders and gamers who want to see THQ succeed and grow. They clearly can’t do that with the current team at the helm. They gotta’ go.