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Interviews

THQ's Ian Curran

The firm's publishing boss gives his view on 3DS, DRM, Wii and much more...

It's a good time to be in charge of THQ.

A few years back, the US publisher was struggling with its hardcore profile.

Its Kids, Family and Casual range (yep, that is a KFC acronym you detect) was flying - taking full advantage of the phenomenal performance from Nintendo formats this generation.

But when it came to the 'real' gamers, there was too much 'me-too' - and too little time for its developers to innovate. The success THQ craved in the hardcore space was not forthcoming.

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Global publishing executive VP Ian Curran and his team took stock and went back to the drawing board - forcing THQ to adopt a 'fewer, better' mindset in the space that has started to pay real dividends.

Curran tells CVG it was "no fluke", and judging by the whittled-down, top-drawer release schedule at the company's disposal in 2010, we're inclined to believe him.

A host of 'Best of E3' awards in its back pocket, the US publisher has an array of new titles creating a buzz - from apocalyptic FPS Homefront to explosive third-person humdinger Red Faction: Armageddon and Warcraft-challenging MMO Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online.

We caught up with Curran to discuss the future direction for THQ - and to gather his thoughts on the industry's biggest talking points...

Homefront was one of the standout games of E3. How confident are you that, as a new IP and an FPS, it can make an impact?
It's shaping up to be a fantastic title, and a truly global title. It's not just a US-focused game, and it won't be a hard sell in other parts of the world. We're very excited by it - and the plaudits from E3 go to show that others are coming around to it, too.

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What has been the secret behind THQ's hardcore release line-up improving so dramatically? If we look back a few years, it was nowhere near as impressive...
That's great to hear - because it's something we addressed and put in planning years ago; how to up our quality.

It was a strategy - we didn't just get there through a fluke. We knew the business had to change, we needed to bring better talent in and reorganise.

One big thing is that there's a lot of creative talent in the business, but that creative talent is now integrated. Our marketing and our product development teams are sharing their creativity. Our marketeers are hardcore gamers, our development guys are too. That's quite unique across the entire industry.

Also, we can't afford anymore to bring mediocre games to market. There's no room for them. You're either a standout, best in class, or you die. We won't bring bad games to market anymore. You can't spend $30, $40, $50 million on a bad game and expect to make a return.

Is that why you seem to have longer development cycles? I might have expected to see Saint's Row 3 this year...
Back in 2007, 2008, we may have released something earlier. But now we will not release a game until it's ready and we will not release it until it's best in class and everybody's going to be blown away by what we have. You'll see that with Saint's Row 3. We know people are waiting for it - I'm desperate for it myself - but it's going to be worth it.

What stood out for you at E3?
3DS, Kinect and Move are causing a lot of buzz. I've been speaking to retailers about Kinect and Move - it's really interesting. There are two camps there.

It's retailers across the globe - it's a 50/50 split as to where people are allying. We're really excited about those formats coming to the marketplace. We want to support both of them - and they've both set pretty aggressive targets out there and hopefully they'll meet them.

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