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THQ buys BHG

January 16th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Industry

Local strategy game developer Big Huge Games (Rise of Legends, Rise of Nations, Asian Dynasties, Catan) is now a wholly owned subsidiary of THQ (Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Titan Quest, Baby Bratz).

Though this means we probably won’t see any more of the BHG take on the Age of Empires series, and that there will be increasing pressure to turn out a franchise RTS, I can see the motivation here. BHG has been more popular with critics and fellow designers than consumers and hasn’t had a huge hit of its own since Rise of Nations. The easy thing would have been to do RoN II, but they went in a more original direction with Rise of Legends. You need to pay the bills and it gets harder to seek out publishers on your own when you are making AAA games and selling less than the design deserves.

Considering BHG’s long history with Microsoft, it’s a little surprising that they would go to a publisher with whom they have no real record. Did they go to Microsoft first, only to be told that they already owned Ensemble? I’ve heard no rumblings of trouble in the relationship, so it’s unlikely that Redmond didn’t know this was in the works. Maybe they’ve been hearing good things about how THQ treats its development arms and wanted a piece of the action.

But while the specifics are a little surprising, the general “independent developer sells out to bigger publisher” is not. AAA games are expensive, and Brian Reynolds and Tim Train make AAA games. The RTS world is getting even more competitive with every blockbuster of the year. And I know of more than one genius type developer who started his own company only to find out that he really didn’t like managing all the day to day business stuff that goes along with success. Sometimes it’s better to have someone else handle the big picture.

BHG is working on a role playing game at the moment, so here’s hoping it serves their corporate masters. THQ has published some really good stuff in the last couple of years, as well as a plethora of Disney licensed titles, American Girl games and Juiced.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • thk123

    Did I head that BHG had a hand in creating Alpha Centauri, because if so, I want a sequel.

  • Troy

    Brian Reynolds, the founder of BHG, created Alpha Centauri while at Firaxis. I think Alpha Centauri’s IP is still owned by Electronic Arts, the original publisher.

    I’d love to see a sequel, too, but I don’t think that’s going to happen so long as Reynolds and Meier are both subsidiaries of other companies.

  • Dave Long

    Rumor has it they were also working on a god game for Wii. Dunno if Troy knows more about that or not.

  • Geeek

    You left out Saints Row. Talk about a game that exceeded expectations in all the right ways…


  • Scott R. Krol

    Ya know, I’m going to lose some gaming cred here but for some reason AC just never did it for me. I can’t put my finger on why, it seemed like such a great idea; a science-fiction version of Civ with many interesting gameplay improvements. What’s not to love?

    I even reinstalled it a couple months ago wondering if my tastes had changed, but no, still just wasn’t doing it. Mind you, I don’t find it bad, just can’t rave about it like some folks I run across.

  • Alan Au

    I agree that Alpha Centauri had its share of quirks (e.g. the artistic style, unintuitive tech tree, late-game micromanagement, supply crawler hi-jinks), but to me the genius of the design was that the player’s priorities had to shift during the game to take full advantage of new discoveries.

  • JonathanStrange

    Alpha Centauri concepts seemed so cool – they still do – but…actually playing on the ugly planet really dimmed my enjoyment. I’ve only played three or four times and always left it for Earth.