THQ has big gaming tie-in plans for the future, and appropriately enough, it is starting with the 22nd-century sci-fi shooter series Red Faction. The publisher has teamed with the NBC Universal-owned cable channel SyFy to produce a two-hour movie pilot called Red Faction: Origins, which will air around the time Red Faction: Armageddon launches in March.
Danny Bilson, executive vice president of THQ's core gaming business, first revealed the publisher's latest trans-media plans in an investor's conference call during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but recently discussed them in greater detail with GameSpot.
Bilson outlined several key aspects of its various gaming tie-ins, including Red Faction Origins, the upcoming Saints Row movie, and a De Blob kids' project with SyFy. Both the De Blob and Red Faction efforts will debut in March, with the Saints Row film expected around the time of the next game in the series next year. That will be the publisher's biggest trans-media effort to date, Bilson said, with the movie and game accompanied by Xbox Live and PlayStation Network content, collectible card games with digital code unlocks for the game, novelizations, apparel, and other tie-in merchandise.
While Saints Row worked best as a film (it's a little too R-rated for most TV networks, Bilson said), Red Faction Origins made perfect sense as a TV movie for SyFy.
"The thing with SyFy is they wanted to get in business with us on multiple things. We thought about what would be good for SyFy, and Red Faction felt like a no-brainer for a couple reasons," Bilson said. "One is that it's producible on a television budget. It takes place on a terraformed Mars where people can breathe and a lot of it is natural terrain with vehicles and spaceships and different factions."
Depending on how well Red Faction Origins turns out and performs, it could be expanded into a full TV season of episodes a la Battlestar Galactica. Bilson said the movie will tell a self-contained story, but one that is designed to push the fiction into a regular episodic format.
"All of these pieces are really to support the games," Bilson said. "They're not big revenue drivers or anything like that. It's really about how we can make the universe cool, give fans more access points to a game they enjoy, and how we can make a game more important when it comes out."
One thing that Bilson said separates THQ's efforts from those of its competitors is that announced projects will come to fruition much more consistently. Instead of licensing out its intellectual property or letting other people take it through the film development process, the publisher makes partnership deals with "guarantees to picture." As a result, THQ films should avoid the development purgatory that has claimed game-to-film adaptations like the Halo movie.
Despite that insistence on releasing finished products, Bilson said the company is mindful about the damage done by substandard tie-ins.
"One thing about trans-media is you can't have a bad piece because it ruins the whole thing," Bilson said, adding, "With these partnerships, if it's not good, we can stop it."
While THQ will continue pushing its existing intellectual properties into new media where it makes sense, Bilson said the publisher is also taking another approach to the idea. He said the company is working on a partnership with a "major filmmaker" that will see a game and film project for a new intellectual property developed jointly from the ground up, though specific details aren't yet ready to be announced.