Yesterday and last night, publishers engaged in a bidding war for the studios, IP and assets of sadly fallen THQ, which filed for bankruptcy in December.
A fair few of the company's teams have found new homes - Sega has snapped up Dawn of War developer Relic Entertainment, in what's likely to be a move to consolidate its acquisition of the rights to the Warhammer license, while Koch Media has picked up Saints Row outfit Volition and the Metro series, developed by 4A Games. Alas, not everybody's emerged from THQ's collapse unscathed. Vigil Games, creator of the Darksiders series, has yet to find a buyer.
"I am truly sorry for the employees and fans of @vigilgames," THQ president Jason Rubin tweeted last night. "It is a travesty that the team and its potential were not recognized."
"There was a shimmer on a slither of hope, that at one point, there'd be a Darksiders 3," Darksiders 2 lead designer Hadyn Dalton mournfully commented this morning. "Four-player co-op: it rode off into the sunset today."
The reasons for the lack of interest are unclear. Vigil has yet to develop a title worthy of unqualified admiration, but the Darksiders series are well-executed, substantial action-RPGs distinguished by vibrant art. There are encouraging signs for the IP, at least - Bayonetta developer Platinum Games has expressed an interest. "In THQ studio and IP selling off auction, Darksiders is unsold? [We] wanna buy it...on the cheap," the latter's Atsushi Inaba tweeted yesterday. More encouragingly still, Platinum's writer JP Kellams threw the following at Dalton: "If anyone is interested in working with/at Platinum let me know how to get ahold of you via DM."
In a lengthy NeoGAF post, lead combat designer Ben Cureton summarised the mood at Vigil's offices. "I'm sitting at my desk among... what appears to be a warzone. The walls look bare. It's quiet. The seats are empty.
"We've all been on edge for the past couple months... and more so, the last couple weeks," he went on. "I mean, I'm sure you can imagine what it's like to wonder if you will have a job tomorrow. Most of us here joked about it just to keep the mood light, but we all knew what could happen. Now I look around and I realize... it did happen.
"Am I sad? Well yeah. I've been in this industry for 20 years. Seriously. Two decades. I've been laid off more than once. It sucks every time. But am I sad I don't have a job? Not really... I'm sure I'll get another one eventually. I'm sad because it won't be THIS job. It won't be at Vigil. That's why I'm sad.
"The people I waged war with are no longer together. The people that I bled with, vented with, argued with (often times LOUDLY), and kicked back with... these people will never be together again in the same combination.
"Not that it was perfect. But what is perfect? Did I like coming to work? Yes. Was I proud of the work that I did? Yes. More importantly, was I proud of the work that WE did? Absolutely. I knew, without a shadow of the doubt, that the project we were working on (Codenamed: Crawler) was going to blow people away.
"In fact, it DID blow people away. We did, in TWO months, what many companies haven't done in a year. The pride of knowing that no one was doing anything like us was so satisfying, it kept us coming to work and giving 100% every single day, even through the dark times.
"... so maybe you can imagine what it feels like when you read the list of who bought what only to discover your name is not on the list. Why? Did we do something wrong? Were we not good enough? Were we not worth 'anything?' Imagine that."
It's worth reading in full.
"Some assets, including our publishing businesses and Vigil, along with some other intellectual properties are not included in the sale agreements. They will remain part of the Chapter 11 case. We will make every effort to find appropriate buyers, if possible," wrote Rubin and CEO Brian Farrell in a letter to THQ's former employees (via Eurogamer). "If you are an employee of an entity that is not included in the sale, we regret that your position will end.
"A small number of our headquarters staff will continue to be employed by THQ beyond 25th January to assist with the transition. THQ has sufficient resources to pay these employees for work going forward, and we will be contacting these employees immediately to ensure their continued employment during this transition period. We are requesting the ability to offer certain severance pay to minimise disruption for employees of non-included entities as they determine the next steps in their careers."
Best of luck to all affected. We'll have more on the THQ fallout shortly.