2011 is a big year for THQ. After a harrowing fiscal 2009, the company closed divisions and restructured considerably, and began to prioritise quality over everything else while simultaneously minimising risk. This year's line-up especially Homefront, but also Red Faction: Armageddon and, hopefully, Saints Row 3 needs to start backing up those good intentions with strong sales.
Nobody knows this more than the company's executive vice president of core games, Danny Bilson. Brought in at around the time THQ started down the long path of reinvention, he's also become the public face of that process, evangelising the company's no-nonsense, quality-first approach, and using his Hollywood background (along with his writing partner, Paul DeMeo, Bilson wrote The Rocketeer and has produced and directed for TV) to push THQ brands into other mediums. He has also been outspoken, often making headlines with his flavoursome comments on touchy subjects (like the Wii's third-party software credentials). It's easy to imagine that he could also become the public scapegoat if not all goes to plan something he freely admits.
We got the chance to talk to Bilson at length during last week's THQ Gamer's Week in New York City to find out how various THQ projects are faring, and to see how he feels about his company's and his own performance.
Eurogamer: Has Homefront penetrated the gaming consciousness in the way Call of Duty and Medal of Honor have? Has all the money you've invested in it started to pay off yet?
Danny Bilson: Well, we haven't shipped it yet.
Eurogamer: Is the hype level where you want it to be?
Danny Bilson: No. It's not where I want it to be. I want it to be bigger. Are you kidding? Always want it to be bigger.
I can't really measure, yet, how successful we've been about how much consciousness there is of Homefront in people's minds until we see it sell, and we see people play it and then start posting about it and writing about how they feel about the game.
Do I want it to be considered in the conversation with Call of Duty and Medal of Honor? Absolutely. Do I think it deserves it? Absolutely. It's really how you guys feel about it, how you talk about it, how other people feel about it. The game just has to take care of itself.
I want the whole world to be demanding it and talking about it. But, come on. It's the first game. Call of Duty is the sixth, seventh game. If we do 20 per cent of what they do we'll be a big hit. You know what? We're doing the best we can, and we really love the game and we're trying to get other people to love it too, but you can't do that until you play it.
Eurogamer: The 3DS date announcement is coming next week. Will THQ support that fully?
Danny Bilson: Yeah, absolutely.
Eurogamer: Will you be there with launch titles?
Danny Bilson: Not launch, but later on. We couldn't get it together for launch, but we have some stuff we've greenlit on 3DS. I love that thing. It's really cool.
Eurogamer: Do you have any PSP2 games in production?
Danny Bilson: No comment.
Eurogamer: Do you think if there was a PSP2 it would be able to compete with Android and iOS for people's money.
Danny Bilson: No comment. I really can't comment on hardware that's going to be announced soon.
Eurogamer: I was surprised that UFC Trainer seems to have lagged back a bit. I know Ubisoft did pretty well out of Fighters Uncaged with the launch of Kinect. Now they've done eight million Kinect units, you must want to get on board with that quite quickly.
Danny Bilson: We're only going to put it out when we believe we're competing at the highest level with the best fitness experience in the world. It certainly looks better than the other guys' stuff.
We just needed more time. We are not a company that's going to ship stuff based on a date. We're going to ship it when the software is incredibly competitive. It's going to be insanely competitive when it comes out in the fitness category and hopefully interesting to a different demographic of people who will want to work out.
You guys are Europe. UFC is way bigger in North America than in Europe. But the Trainer is an excellent fitness product. I'm not even supposed to be talking about it because I don't think we've even officially announced it.