In an industry thick with creators, Lars Wingefors is an unapologetic business man first, perhaps only.
“I’ve seen bad experiences with trying to handle creative people,” said Wingefors, self-described entrepreneur and owner of Nordic Games Group and Wingefors Invest. “So we don’t have any internal developers and I don’t intend to.”
Typically that wouldn’t be a problem for a game distributor, but as of yesterday afternoon unofficially, and next month officially, Wingefors’ Nordic Games will be the owner of more than 150 individual titles, rights to titles and video game franchises, each the beloved orphan of THQ’s steady disintegration.
It will be up to Wingefors and his business team in Austria to decide what to do with the likes of MX Vs. ATV, Darksiders, Red Faction, Deadly Creatures, Destroy All Humans, Supreme Commander, Titan Quest, and the list goes on and on.
Does he plan to transform his company, a business largely built on the profits of selling and distributing video games, into a game developer? Absolutely not, he tells Polygon. Does he plan to simply republish the glut of games his company just inherited and never oversee a sequel? Also absolutely not.
Wingefors’ most likely plans are still coalescing in the aftermath of months of business maneuvering and bidding that culminated one week ago today when he discovered that Nordic Game had successfully purchased the bulk of THQ’s titles. But most likely he plans to have his team sort through the mix of titles, figure out new distribution deals and start to cautiously explore the possibility of landing third-party developers to create sequels for some of those franchises, he said.
“I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of THQ and bring out unprofitable products. Then your days are over.”
“Of course we will look into all possibilities,” Wingegors told Polygon when asked about potential sequels, “but I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of THQ and bring out unprofitable products. Then your days are over. You need to find the right [development] team and build a smart business model around it.
“I do think there is great potential, most of these games have sold in the millions. There is a love for these titles. Red Faction has millions of fans. They were disappointed with the last installment, but I think there is potential in it. And of course Darksiders, everyone, everyone would like to see something come from that.“
Wingefors’ cautious approach to the titles he now owns extends all the way back to the day he first became interested in buying them.
“I got a phone call more or less as soon as the press release came out saying that THQ was auctioning off the games,” he said. “And we have been in the process since then.”
Wingefors considered getting involved in the February auction of THQ’s biggest titles, but ultimately decided the process was too rich for his company to participate in.
“Even though we do have a good financial position, doing a game like South Park [The Stick of Truth], that is for the really big companies,” he said.
Wingefors was also concerned about the burn of adopting mammoth studios. The overhead to run a company like Volition, he worried, could have been too much for his company to handle.
Following that initial set of sales, officials handling the bankruptcy proceedings reached back out to Nordic Games to tell them there would be another auction.
“That was the perfect fit for us,” he said, “Because we wanted a broader portfolio.”
The Vienna-based company was founded in 2011 off of money Wingefors made selling overstock games, he said. That year, the company managed to acquire JoWooD Entertainment, grabbing up the likes of Gothic, Spellforce and Hotel Giant. Part of the deal included the purchase of subsidiary DreamCatcher Interactive and more than 50 of their IP, including the Painkiller and Safecracker series.
That double deal prepared Wingefors and his team for this THQ acquisition, he said. And the money for the deal came from cash earned through Game Outlet Europe and the sale of overstocked games.
The team started looking at the list of IP in earnest in March, he said, and they placed their first bid about two weeks ago. The final bid was made last week. On Tuesday they were told they had won the auction for the properties.
“They wanted more and we had a discussion and I agreed to pay a bit more than I first had thought I would,” he said.
Ultimately, the company paid $4.9 million for the properties, snatching up just about all of THQ’s remnant IP, with the exception of Homeworld which went to Gearbox Software and Drawn to Life which went to 505 Games.
The court still has to approve the sale, but that is expected to happen in May.
The first step, once the deal is court approved, is for his team to methodically work through the properties to see what has been published where and how the titles are being sold.
“We already have a publishing business,” he said, “so of course we will explore all possibilities to sell those products around the world.
“THQ was brilliant about having their games on quite a few platforms, but they missed a few. I hope we can publish some good old classics on good platforms like, for instance, Good Old Games.”
The team will also be speaking with interested parties about some of the more complex deals they inherited. Take for instance, Double Fine’s Costume Quest and Stacking. Both are games that THQ retained the limited distribution rights to. Now Nordic Games has them.
“We just want to find the right team who have the creative talent to make something good out of these properties.”
While Wingefors has no intention of simply giving away rights he purchased, even if they were part of a package deal, he said he plans to speak with developers like Double Fine who find themselves in that sort of situation with an IP.
“We are very flexible and easy to work with,” he said.
Since the news hit yesterday evening, Nordic Games has been flooded with thousands of emails, Wingefors said. Many were congratulations, he said, but there were also hundreds asking about potential business deals.
Those deals, Wingefors said, will be key to insuring that the IP Nordic Games now owns will get sequels.
“First of all, I’m an entrepreneur and business man of games,” Wingefors explained to me. “I’m not a game creator. We don’t have the creative talent to make sequels. But I’m saying that I know that over the last 24 hours we have been in contact with quite a few of the original creators and studios. We just want to find the right team who have the creative talent to make something good out of these properties.
“If we can find that team, I’m sure I can be creative enough to find the business model and financial plan to make something to happen in the future.”
Just how soon that will happen, Wingefors isn’t sure. He said he plans to spend much of his time at E3 this June speaking with developers and publishers about potential deals. He also said he’s open to the idea of creative business deals, including ones in which he hands over the IP to a studio in exchange for a part of the company.
“It’s very hard to say when the first sequel will come out,” he said. “I’m sure we can sign some kind of deals for sequels potentially during the summer for a few, or maybe one of them.”