While it's been known for some time that the Acclaim brand was salvaged and put back into circulation on a domestic publisher of Korean PC games, the fate of its catalog has been a question mark ever since the publisher declared bankruptcy in September of 2004.
When upstart Toronto-based outfit Throwback Entertainment on Friday announced its acquisition of a selection of the defunct publisher's offerings, it answered the question of who wound up with the rights to games like Vexx, Re-Volt, and XGRA. But it also raised a number of questions about what exactly Throwback planned to do with those franchises.
Over the weekend, Throwback CEO Thomas Maduri took the time to answer GameSpot's questions about his company's big pickup.
GameSpot: Can you give a history of how Throwback came to be and what else it has done?
Thomas Maduri: Coincidentally, Throwback was established three or four weeks prior to the Acclaim bankruptcy. The original suggestion was to put together a bid to re-establish the company as it stood. After further discussions and due diligence on the situation, we felt it best to go in a different direction and begin work on other various projects. It is ironic, however, that we ended up in a similar result only a couple of years later.
As for a history of past projects, the Acclaim content acquisition is our first announced, completed project. We have multiple projects in development, and will be announcing them at a later date.
GS: How big an operation is Throwback?
TM: The Throwback operation can be classified as a startup for the time being. We're executing an aggressive growth schedule, and looking to hire some highly skilled individuals.
GS: Were all these rights picked up at last year's auction of Acclaim's remaining assets? How much was invested just in acquiring the rights?
TM: All the rights to the games were picked up after the conclusion of the auction held on May 11, 2006. Included in the auction were approximately 286 SKUs spanning multiple generations and consoles. Some of those titles are not mentioned on our site due to further investigations needed on our part. The total cost of the acquisition cannot be calculated at this point in time, and will be some time before it is ascertained.
GS: What criteria were you using in choosing which properties to pick up?
TM: Throwback didn't target and purchase individual titles. Every title remaining in the Acclaim library was sold to us in a single purchase. So there wasn't a selection process, as it was structured as an all-or-none proposition that we were pleased with.
The Acclaim titles were originally targeted because of the recently created original intellectual properties. Some titles like Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance did not have an opportunity to experience a full product life cycle, and the preliminary sales information was promising. Other titles like the Extreme-G Racing series represented an approximate $60 million revenue level. The financial information combined with more traditional research showed to us a level of consumer penetration that could be used in future iterations.
GS: What's the next step now that Throwback has the rights to these properties?
TM: Throwback is going to continue the projects that have been worked on for some time now. The acquisition does not fundamentally alter any plans for the existing pipeline, but just adds to it. It is highly possible that new franchises or titles that have been in development will be released prior to any Acclaim-based titles.
GS: Will we see rereleases of any of these games?
TM: Yes, we're dedicated to rereleasing many of the key titles for new gamers to enjoy. They will be distributed using various digital distribution channels.
GS: Will these franchises continue to be traditionally console-based, or will we see them appear on PCs, in plug-and-play TV games, on Xbox Live Arcade, or other formats?
TM: I think a fundamental problem Acclaim had with many of these franchises is there weren't services like Xbox Live Arcade, or non-traditional platforms like Nintendo is providing with the DS, and [the] anticipated Wii console, available to them when many of these games were created. A game like Re-Volt or Iggy's Reckin' Balls would be a perfect fit for the Xbox Live Arcade service. They provide quick gameplay, and do not possess a substantial learning curve for the controls. These services will create new markets using existing console technology, so in that sense they will be console-based, but in a non-mainstream format. Throwback is planning on taking advantage of those and any other yet-to-be-announced platforms or services we could potentially benefit from.
GS: Will Throwback handle the development, publishing, or distribution of future titles in these franchises? Or is it just a rights-holder that will contract with other companies to do those tasks?
TM: Throwback will be establishing itself as a full-service publisher. Development of titles will be determined on a game-by-game basis with some titles internally developed, and others contracted to outside studios.
GS: Which franchises will we see revived first?
TM: Throwback has established an internal road map, but we're obviously excited about Re-Volt and XGRA. Pending a formal announcement, we can't provide any further information.
GS: Is Throwback focusing on returning these properties just to gaming, or will there be an effort to expand them to toys, television, movies, and so on?
TM: I think if there's an opportunity to expand to other forms, we'd be willing to enter discussions. But we're realistic, and focusing all our efforts on returning these properties to the gaming world.
GS: Do the rights to titles like Aggressive Inline and Legends of Wrestling include the rights for names and likenesses of the real-life personalities featured in those games, or just the series' brands?
TM: There are some legal issues that need to be sorted through before we can even ascertain what those titles include and we've been told not to comment on their status. I apologize for that, and wish we could provide further insight.
GS: How soon will we see Throwback make use of these acquisitions?
TM: As soon as possible. We have some organizational and legal aspects to take care of, but we're committed to bringing some titles to the next generation and beyond. We expect development to begin shortly on some titles, and will be making the necessary announcements as development progresses.
GS:: Thanks, Thomas.