Quality Management Equals Quality Evolution – A THQ Story

The most successful businesses and industries in the world are those that understand the necessity of change. Evolution is a constant reality that doesn’t only move the natural world, it moves industries and technology with just as much force. A company may be founded upon a game-changing idea, discovering a new market , or even a venture in a dependable old one; if that company does not evolve it will most certainly perish. This may seem like an obvious truism, yet it is one that for so long has gone ignored in businesses across the world and the price they’ve paid has been public and devastating.

Which is why I’m here to tell you about an old hobbyhorse of mine – THQ.

While my usual corner at The Australia Times has been writing for the GAMES magazine, I felt this story about THQ fit far more into BUSINESS as it is about an issue concerning almost every industry worldwide.

THQ was a games developer and publisher that went bankrupt in 2012, moving from a billion dollar company to defunct in an incredibly short time. It was a huge surprise to our industry, the equivalent of something like Disney or Telstra suddenly disappearing off the face of the map.

THQ was a company that made some games that are still to this day, some of my very favourites. Space Marine, Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, Red Faction; these were literal game changers and breaths of fresh air to their genres. Unfortunately, they were the exceptions to the rule for THQ’s usually low standards of quality, and their decline was a predictable outcome that still saddens me now.

For a long time, THQ showed signs of a business with no clear direction or processes in place; rubber stamping mediocre titles, opposing ideas about what should go into development and largely ignoring the original, dynamic changes the industry was seeing at the time. What made it so painful was that both the industry and its fans and customers could clearly see this lack of imagination, and the result was inevitable. To any business in any market, this is an important lesson of how not to conduct business.

Now, to my great surprise, the company is back as THQ Nordic, having amalgamated with Nordic Games after spending several years selling off assets and attempting to tread water. And yet, looking at their list of upcoming titles, I found that they are still plumbing the depths of tired formulas from dead franchises in order to revitalise the business.

While THQ may be at the far extreme end of case studies of a company being blinkered and immutable, it is a pattern we are all seeing again and again across the business spectrum.

One of the issues may very well be that it is difficult for companies to assess their own practices, technologies and identity in order to make changes at their core, with impact. A modern solution I have recently seen to this problem was the application of Business Process Architecture, or BPA. It’s a method designed to improve the processes and quality management of a company; not only bringing it up to speed with the standards of modern era technology and business practices, but also setting the path for continuous evolution. All of the things that THQ lacked and desperately needed to keep afloat in its market.

BPA seems to be gaining traction as unstable markets across the board are demonstrating the half-lives of stagnant or archaic organisations. People are working to be certified as Business Process Architects because it is a service both lucrative and necessary. With the right training and business acumen, a third party perspective on a company can provide an objective look at the business lattice and establish where the transformations need to be made, both organisational and technological, with the intent to raise quality levels in every aspect. I find it hard to believe that any company wouldn’t see the benefit in employing this methodology.

The funny thing is that THQ actually did see the need for such a perspective at the time of their demise. Their method was to bring in Jason Rubin, co-founder of game developer Naughty Dog, a company that is three decades old (positively ancient for the games industry) whose monumental successes over the years and especially recently with zeitgeist titles like The Last of Us, have demonstrated that necessity of dynamic and constant evolution in a business. Rubin was brought in after the company had dug itself so deep with poor development decisions and a mass of panicked asset sales to round up funds.

Changes needed to be made but no one at the company was trained to have the vision to architect those changes. Rubin was brought in to salvage the wreckage, but it was far too late to save anything. Rubin himself said ‘THQ had to be restructured to survive, and unfortunately, the restructuring ended up in an asset sale rather than an acquisition, with this other thought succinctly boiling down the overall point: ‘THQ had every chance to survive had it not made massive mistakes.

It may seem like an obvious statement, but the company died, and too many others are going with it.

For the love of God, I hope THQ Nordic is hiring something like a Business Process Architect, because I fear history is about to repeat itself all too soon.




(Link for quotes www.mcvuk.com/news/read/the-collapse-of-thq-the-full-story/0110180)