Why THQ Nordic's Purchase of Saints Row, Dead Island Owner Is Such a Big Deal

Why Agents of Mayhem, Homefront the Revolution Failed

THQ Nordic today announced it now owns game developer and publisher Koch Media, picking up 15 game franchises, 14 in-development games, three development studios and relationships with eight more external studios in a 121 million Euro deal.

The short-term plans have both companies continuing to operate independently as Koch works to complete development on its array of upcoming titles which includes Metro Exodus and Dead Island 2. The deal also offers quite a bit of insight into what both companies are working on and some of the previous short-comings of Koch Media. In an investor presentation today, THQ Nordic outlined the substantial impact Koch's acquisition will have on THQ and, most likely, the game industry.

The high-level impact is that THQ Nordic GmbH's parent company THQ Nordic AB now owns rights to both Saints Row and Dead Island as well as having a "long-term" exclusive license within games for Metro based on the books by Dmitry Glukhovsky.  The deal also brings developers Deep Silver Volition and Deep Silver Dambusters Studios under its umbrella. Combined, THQ Nordic and Koch Media now have 10 internal dev studios, 26 external dev studios, 106 IP, 50 games in development (both announced and unannounced) and a headcount of about 1,650.

The company also says that there will be no changes in Koch Media company structure and that Koch's CEO will continue to run things internally. While Koch Media does have a film unit, it only accounts for about 8 percent of the company's business, according to THQ Nordic.

Today's presentation dug into each of the core studios at Koch Media, which operate under the Deep Silver publishing division.

Volition, which currently has a headcount of about 150, is described as a world class studio of open world, action/destruction genre games. The presentation also notes, though, that Agents of Mayhem, which was released in August 2017, had poor sales due to "not delivering a game of the right quality" to the Saints Row fan base. It sold about 300,000 copies to date, according to the company's estimates.

Dambuster Studios, which was founded as Free Radical, then became Crytek UK and finally Dambuster in 2014, is a "lean and efficient team with a think layer of management," according to the presentation. It has about 108 employees right now. The presentation also notes that Dambuster's Homefront The Revolution, which was released in May 2016, had poor sales due to "a release of a non-finished product" and that the game is still being updated. It sold about 1.2 million copies to date, according to the company's estimates.

Deep Silver Fishlabs is described as a studio historically focused on mobile games, but that it will be focusing on PC and console titles moving forward. It has about 70 employees.

Deep Silver, the publishing arm at Koch Media, just released Kingdom Come Deliverance and has racing game Dakar, and first-person shooter Metro Exodus set for a release this year. In development titles without a release date include Dead Island 2, which is now in development by Sumo, and Shenmue III. Finally, the say that there are seven other pipeline projects, Volition's unannounced next AAA title and Dambuster's unannounced next AAA title.

This acquisition by THQ Nordic is just the latest step in a series of business moves that seems to be transforming a once nearly unheard of mail-order retailer to a publishing powerhouse. Founded in 1990 as a secondhand sales company for games, Nordic entered the video game publishing business in 2004. In 2011, the company acquired JoWood Entertainment and subsidiary DreamCatcher Interactive. In 2013, Nordic managed to grab up more than 150 games, including Darksiders, Red Faction and MX Vs. ATV,  during the THQ bankruptcy. Koch Media picked up Volition and the Metro property during the same fire sale and later purchased the Homefront property from Crytek. Later that year, Nordic grabbed up some titles from Atari. Over the next several years, Nordic bought up rights for a slew of different games from DTP Entertainment, bitComposer Entertainment and Digital Reality. In 2016, Nordic changed its name to THQ Nordic and snagged the rights to NovaLogic's IP.

Last year alone, the company announced that they are working on a remaster of Lock's Quest, Baja: Edge of Control, de Blob on new platforms, an extended version of Sine Mora Ex, Rad Rogers, Darksiders III and picked up Black Forest Games, Pieces Interactive and Experiment 101 studios. On Tuesday, the company announced it was bringing de Blob to Nintendo Switch.