Driving games can be a lucrative market for those who hit it big, but THQ appears to have picked up a couple of lemons when it purchased the Juiced and Stuntman franchises from Acclaim and Atari, respectively. The latest installments in those two series underperformed at retail, which may have led the publisher to tell investors today that it had decided "not to pursue" the franchises in an update to its fiscal-year earnings expectations.
Those weren't the only THQ-owned brands to suffer setbacks today. The publisher also revealed the cancellations of the PlayStation 3 version of Frontlines: Fuel of War and the PlayStation 2 version of Destroy All Humans: Big Willy Unleashed. (THQ is still expected to release Frontlines on the Xbox 360 and PC, and Big Willy Unleashed is still coming to the Wii and the PlayStation Portable.)
Between those cancellations and also some costs tied to a pair of as-yet unannounced games set for release in THQ's fiscal 2010, the publisher expects to take a $27 million hit to its bottom line. The company further announced the closure of its Concrete Games studio, which had been working on one of those unannounced games. Some employees from the studio will be offered positions elsewhere within THQ, according to the publisher.
"In October, we announced certain product-quality initiatives, including personnel and structural changes in product development and a more rigorous internal and external product evaluation and feedback process," THQ CEO and president Brian Farrell said in a statement. "Consistent with these initiatives, we have taken actions to strengthen our pipeline and position ourselves to compete aggressively with compelling, high-quality games."
THQ also downgraded its revenue expectations for the current quarter, which ends March 31. Whereas the publisher had previously expected net sales of about $240 million, it now expects to ring up roughly $200 million. Part of that is a result of the cancellation of Big Willy Unleashed for the PS2, which had been set to ship in March, as well as lowered sales expectations for previously released titles. THQ also plans to defer $10 million in revenues "due to the significant online-play component" of the PC edition of Frontlines: Fuel of War. To top it off, THQ will also report an extra $20 million in expenses due to underperforming sales from Stuntman: Ignition, Ratatouille, and Conan.
THQ's financial update wasn't all bad news. WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008 and MX vs. ATV Untamed have outperformed the publisher's expectations, leading it to bump up its expected revenues for the quarter ended December 31 from $490 million to $509 million.
The publisher also revealed the appointment of two new executives who will assist in its attempts to build new intellectual properties and execute on product-quality initiatives. Danny Bilson will be the publisher's new vice president of creative development for worldwide studios, and Roy Tessler is the new vice president of production for worldwide studios. Bilson previously served as vice president of intellectual-property development and creative director for Electronic Arts, where he worked on such brands as The Sims and Medal of Honor. Tessler is a promotion from within; he cofounded THQ's Studio Australia five years ago and also oversaw direction of MX vs. ATV untamed as general manager of Rainbow Studios.