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THQ's Farrell Aims For Core Market

THQ's Farrell Aims For Core Market Exclusive

March 11, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

Hoping to return to profitability, THQ CEO Brian Farrell believes the company can gain a foothold in the high-risk -- but high-potential -- core game space.

"With respect to the core gamer, I think it's pretty clear that there is a concentration in the top titles," said Farrell, speaking at Wedbush Morgan Securities' annual conference, in comments listened in on by Gamasutra. "There was an argument over the holiday season -- do you have to be in the top five, top 10."

Many publishers -- including Electronic Arts, to whom THQ has a similar business philosophy -- have observed that polarization in the core audience. "Over a year, if you're solidly in the top four, you can be profitable on these core gamer titles -- but you've got to have one of those top titles for the year," Farrell said.

And the primary trait of a top core title? Quality, says Farrell, again echoing EA CEO John Riccitiello's most frequent refrain. "I'm not sure [Metacritic] is the only thing to look at," said Farrell, "but you've got to have a game that resonates with the consumers and the press."

"We know how to do this," he stated, noting that Saints Row has done 2.6 million units life to date at full price. Farrell says THQ plans to build and launch one to two new brands annually -- "and I think what some people seem to be missing is the breadth and depth of our portfolio," he added.

He noted Red Faction: Guerrilla, the first game in the franchise upcoming for the present console generation after the success of the original on PlayStation 2 and Xbox. And Saints Row 2 is "clearly the number-two open-world game in the category, behind GTA," he said.

Finally: "Warhammer 40k is one brand we should start talking about more. It is a PC-only game -- but from the original Dawn of War game that we built at Relic from the original launch, through expansion through gold edition... we've done about 4 million units life to date on Dawn of War 1."

In February, THQ reported $191.8 million in losses and a 30 percent drop in revenues, prompting a 24 percent staff reduction of around 600 positions. In the last ten months, the company's share price has fallen from $20 to around $2.

"We've been in this business a long time," said Farrell. "[We've had] 13 years of profitable growth in a row... a return to profitability is top of mind to us. How? With the core gamers, it's matter of focus... fewer but higher-quality core [games]."

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