THQ Nordic should be a well familiar name for many gamers out there, with a prolific portfolio of titles under their publishing belt. They’ve recently opened a branch in Singapore, getting a foothold in the Southeast Asian region. We caught up with Klemens Kreuzer, CEO of THQ Nordic, Georg T. Klotzberg, Publishing Director and Winson Lo of THQ Nordic Singapore at Tokyo Game Show 2022, to get some of their insights into them as a company, and what their future plans are.
Q&A has been edited for clarity.
THE NAME OF THE GAME
In recent years, THQ Nordic seems to have made quite a name for itself bringing back a lot of beloved titles from the PS2 era. How does it feel to be associated as such?
KLEMENS KREUZER: It feels good, since starting with the JoWooD IP catalog. We call it “internal asset care”. We love the old games and remember the times we played them in the 90s or 2000s, and there’s this feeling of wanting to bring them back. The top level of asset care is making a sequel, but normally we follow the flow with remaster, remake, then sequel.
Considering your portfolio from the PS2 era, could you share your thoughts on game preservation?
KLEMENS KREUZER: Bringing back old games also brings back childhood memories for a lot of gamers, so it’s a very emotional thing. Take for example, SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom; players who are playing the remaster, remake, are 15 to 20 years older now. The remake we do helps them remember those good times with the same passion and feeling. Same goes for the many other remasters and remakes we do.
People fell in love with the game, and it’s just really about bringing back that nostalgia. It makes us happy that people can get so emotional over them, which is why we do it.
Would you prefer to do remasters, or remakes?
KLEMENS KREUZER: It’s on a case-by-case basis. There are some games where it’s ‘impossible’ to make a remaster. Destroy All Humans was remade after we evaluated the game because a remaster wouldn’t meet the standards of what people expect from the game. Remasters are cheaper, of course, but personally, we believe remakes are the way to go.
What strategic values do you look at when acquiring a company?
KLEMENS KREUZER: While we’ve made many acquisitions in the past, we’re relatively slow in that. We look for people who we love to work with: the team, the company, the studio, and be with them for a longer period of time to see if we have the same mindset and vision moving forward. It’s important that they’re passionate about what they’re doing, their motivation, and the team being capable of further growth.
It’s not just about growing the team size. It’s about whether they can make the game better than the previous game, and that they intend to. I believe it’s incredibly important that the IP is linked more closely to the creator than the publisher as they are the ones who are focused on it. The publisher is sometimes the necessary evil for the developer, but the developer is really the star.
We’re making entertainment products and it should be more open and friendly rather than a serious trade show where a publisher isn’t open to the audience. We can laugh about ourselves, and talk about all the failures and mistakes that we’ve done.
Have you ever thought about having teams that use multiple IPs at once?
KLEMENS KREUZER: It’s not easy to make something like a Super Smash Brothers game with all those characters. That said, we’re open minded if a development studio asks to use a character to crossover in another game. It’s more like an Easter egg than anything, but if they have a good idea, then let’s go for it.
THE BIOMUTANT SPARK
THQ Nordic has a very strong presence in Japan, despite not focusing on more ‘traditional’ Japanese titles. Could you talk about this ‘appetite’ for Western games?
KLEMENS KREUZER: We were super happy about the success of Biomutant in Japan which surpassed our expectations, but to be honest, we’re still learning about what really is or isn’t the taste of the Japanese audience. We are completely aware that not everything we do will find a huge fanbase in Japan, so it’s a selective approach. The Japanese subsidiary is three years old which is a very young age for an organization. We believe that in the next seven to twelve years, we’ll learn a lot more about the Japanese market, then we can talk about this again. We may want to focus more on Southeast Asia instead than just Japan.
Biomutant has a good combination of both Eastern and Western elements. Could you talk about the international approach in marketing the game?
KLEMENS KREUZER: It’s something like this: the head of the studio had a vision of a Kung-fu flavour which could suit the Asian and Japanese market very well. However, I think such things are more of happy accidents and not something you can really plan just by bringing an element that could meet the taste of a certain audience. I think that approach would make it too generic and won’t be accepted as it would feel too manufactured. Something like this emerges and develops by itself, and for Biomutant, it was perfect.
ONWARD TO SEA
What are your plans for your recently established office in Singapore?
KLEMENS KREUZER: We were tired of reading industry reports on the Southeast Asian region as it was more or less the same data. We wanted to have our own knowledge and experience in the field, and we believe strongly that from 2021 to 2023, this market will be one of the ones to watch out for, if not already. Where we are now, our products are more on the traditional publisher section with no free to play mobile games, but we expect that to change in the next two years.
Winson and his team makes up our local intelligence for the market. We want to know who the relevant players are, how people inform themselves about gaming, the channels they use, etc. We need to learn from the ground up with the goal of releasing sequels based on our IPs in 2025. If we haven’t identified the right channels, we cannot reach the right audience.
Would there be any localizations for the SEA market?
KLEMENS KREUZER: It’s been a work in progress over the last 18 to 36 months. We added them one by one, finding that it made some difference here and there. We’re still figuring out which parts of Southeast Asia are the most receptive to a localization. We’re targeting Indonesian, and we have been experimenting with Indian and Malay as well. As it is, Alone in the Dark will be released in 14 languages.
Quite a number of AAA game publishers in general have moved into mobile games, later also targeting SEA. What are your thoughts on this, and the mobile market? Are you interested in it?
KLEMENS KREUZER: I think it’s a fantastic market and it’s really impressive what certain companies can achieve with regards to audience reach. For now, we have decided not to enter the mobile games market, though we do have Handy Games as a subsidiary who are making awesome mobile games. The reason is simple: we don’t believe we can make good mobile games as we believe it needs to be a separate organization or team, who are really passionate about mobile games.
It’s really different with regards to game design, the user interface, the channels, and how to market it. You can’t compare mobile games to something like a PS5 title. We’ve seen many publishers in the past making the mistake of ‘copy-pasting’ their toolsets and experience in traditional publishing for the mobile game market.
What do you think about a partnership with mobile game developers?
KLEMENS KREUZER: This is an option to do so. Conceptually, we won’t be against it.
Anything you’d like to say to the Southeast Asian gamers?
WINSON LO: We’re not focusing on any one platform, as we have PC, console, and Handy Games for mobile. You could say we’d be cooking up many things in the future, but we’ll share them when they’re ready.
GEORG T. KLOTZBERG: I hope to get more feedback from gamers in this area to hear their concerns and / or their ideas. We as a Western publisher are inexperienced in this region, so we could be missing the mark. If anyone has constructive criticism for us, we’re open to hearing it and will greatly appreciate it moving forward.
Thanks once again to Klemens Kreuzer, Georg T. Klotzberg, and Winson Lo for answering our questions! The Singapore branch is pretty new, so we can only wait to see what they’ll be ready to show in the future. In the meantime, let’s get ready for the other smorgasbord of THQ Nordic offerings that are sure soon to come!