As we type, various companies and venture capitalists are picking at the bones of fallen publisher THQ. The organisation’s assets are being auctioned off individually, meaning it’s entirely possible that the likes of Homefront, Red Faction, and de Blob could all end up being owned by different parties as soon as this evening. Of course, the star lot in the firm’s portfolio will be the Saints Row franchise and its developer Volition.
A number of publishers have been linked with the brand, including Ubisoft, EA, and Warner Bros, which is unsurprising considering the success of Saints Row: The Third. The 2011 title was an enormous commercial hit, shipping over 5 million copies as of November 2012. It’s likely that that figure has increased more over the past few months.
The game’s success stemmed from its carefree style and sense of humour. While earlier entries in the series had attempted to piggyback on the open world genre’s success, Saints Row: The Third had a laser focused ambition to be as silly and downright bonkers as possible. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to Grand Theft Auto IV’s grittier tale.
As such, the series needs a publisher that’s going to cultivate that brand of nonsense going forwards – and we believe that Warner Bros is the perfect fit. While we don’t doubt that the series would be handled adequately under Ubisoft and EA’s management, we’re not convinced that either publisher would be the optimal choice.
Ubisoft, for example, already has a handful of open world franchises in its portfolio, including the upcoming Watch Dogs, which, while evidently more serious, appears to fill the publisher’s requirements for an urban action adventure. EA, on the other hand, has a poor history when it comes to acquired teams, underlined by its complete mishandling of Pandemic Studios, the Mercenaries developer which it shut down little over two years after buying them.
However, Warner Bros, to its credit, has a completely different track record when it comes to purchasing existing studios. Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm has thrived under the organisation, rising to become one of the most distinguished fighting game teams in the world. The developer is now turning its attention to the DC Universe with Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Mortal Kombat’s resurgence proves that Warner Bros has a great track record when it comes to handling existing teams, but that’s not the only asset that makes the publisher a perfect fit for the Saints Row franchise. Indeed, the organisation also knows how to market silly games, as is evidenced by its work with Grasshopper Manufacture on Lollipop Chainsaw. While a little vulgar at times, the company’s campaign propelled the undead brawler to the top of the software charts globally, making it the Japanese developer’s best selling game to date.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine what Warner Bros could achieve with the Saints Row license and developer Volition under its wing. The franchise is no slouch in its current guise, but with the Batman: Arkham City publisher on its side, it has the potential to become one of the biggest names in games.
Sadly, it's not to be, though. Since going to press, Deep Silver has acquired the Saints Row brand and developer Volition. You can find out more through here.