There has been a lot of talk about the demise of THQ in the past few weeks, a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of curiosity if we’ll see this expand beyond their company and if we’ll see other major publishers go the way of the Dodo bird. Without a doubt THQ isn’t the only major publisher in the gaming world that has seen setbacks over the past year and made some serious cuts, they were just the one that made some of the worst decisions that led them to their doom. The reality is, no one is untouched by the world economy and the evolving way that consumers interact with the products that they want.
We’ve even seen the goliaths in gaming come under scrutiny due to financial forecasts. Many have been saying that Nintendo is not fiscally solvent, that Sony is in a bad way and that their gaming division might see some cuts and of course Microsoft might have some stormy waters ahead of them as well. The thing is, this isn’t new in the world of consumer products, especially ones that are media-based and do not need to be purchased at brick-and-mortar stores or even through an ecommerce site. Digital is the future and digital delivery is very real.
There are a number of entertainment industries being affected by the shift to digital and the prevalence of high-speed internet. I mean, c’mon, there is even 4G for smartphones which beats my DSL any day of the week. The first time we saw a storm brewing over an industry was the music industry and the filesharing movement that was Napster. Napster was a way for people to share music with each other and cut out everyone else from the process. No one got paid for it and the MP3 became a standard. The RIAA gathered up a group of well-known, rich musicians and had them do PR for them by helping to sue grandmothers and children for hilarious sums of money for using filesharing programs and did more harm than good for the industry. It wasn’t until Apple’s iTunes store popped up that the recording industry finally saw the writing on the wall; people want to consume their media the way that they want to, and if they can’t, they’ll just steal it.
Then we saw the film industry go through something similar, the same deal of lawsuits and terrible PR, complaining about ticket and DVD sales while still making tons of money. Piracy became well-known and widespread and sort of a joke, with most people finding no fault in it due to how widespread it was and how panicked the industry acted. Eventually we saw services like Netflix and RedBox take off and kill off traditional video rentals before Netflix’s streaming took off. The film industry has now changed and is much better for the consumer than it ever has been.
Hell, even the publishing world is seeing the same thing. Amazon became a problem for stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, but the publishing industry wasn’t seeing a drop in sales, so it wasn’t a huge problem. Then the Kindle and other eReaders came out and everything changed. Books no longer had to be purchased for $15.99 at a store for a new paperback, eBooks were cheaper, more compact and one device could hold thousands of books. Then came the self-publishing revolution which has simplified the process of getting a book to market and for writers to see higher percentages than ever before.
Videogames have finally reached this point where failure for certain companies who do not evolve is imminent. In publishing there is no more Borders and Barnes & Noble is on the way out. Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos around the country are boarded up, as are Sam Goodys and other chains. How long does GameStop have left in their tank before they are phased out? How long do major game publishers have until independent developers stop working for the goal of getting scooped up by a big publisher and instead focus on delivering their product directly to gamers?
THQ wasn’t the first to fall, but it sure as hell won’t be the last.