THQ is dead, and Koch Media now owns Saints Row and Volition. Will this have a negative effect on the studio? Or will it just be business as usual?
The Saints Row series is a monument to excess and vulgarity, stylish puerility, and giant purple dildos. It's a game where you can do the Ric Flair strut and play as an inflatable sex doll. There are giant purple dildos. You are encouraged to act with the sort of law-breaking impunity that would make Pablo Escobar (or your average city trader) blush, and then laugh about it.
Did I mention there are giant purple dildos? There are. It's brilliant.
So it might come as a surprise to some (the Daily Mail, People Who Are Afraid Of Things – significant overlap there) that the creators of Saints Row aren't a bunch of total douchenozzles, riding around LA in drop-top 'pussy wagons', flashing no-limit black cards, etc etc.
They're just a bunch of talented guys, living in a small but growing city in America. Champaign, Illinois, to be precise, a place that resembles Silent Hill before the fog rolled in. It looks like a set for a heartwarming US comedy-drama about overcoming the rigours of being a teenager. The local high school quarterback is probably also the mayor. One of the producers is married to the local prom queen. She runs a cupcake shop. That is not a lie, even though it sounds like one.
There are no purple dildos in sight. It's a nice place, with nice people. It's a million miles away from Stilwater, Saints Row's fictional murderopolis. If you were THQ, you wouldn't want to change a thing.
Well, THQ is gone now. It's up in the giant publisher strip club in the sky, kicking back with Midway and laughing about all the money it wasted like it was starring in a remake of Brewster's Millions without the pay off.
Koch Media now owns the series and the studio. We can't be sure what it's going to do with it, but we'd be surprised if 'business as usual' isn't the plan. So far, there's nothing to suggest that Koch has anything but the best intentions for its latest acquisition.
That said, worries still linger. Koch Media is a large company, but its games arm, Deep Silver, is most famous for publishing Dead Island. Which, it must be said, isn't going to win any awards bar 'most misleading advertising'. Dead Island Riptide looks like more of the (exact) same.
If Koch wants to be taken seriously, it needs a big franchise with a big reach, and Saints Row fits the bill. The worry is: what will happen to Volition's core now?
High profile departures from studios are nothing new - Volition writer Drew Holmes left for Irrational before THQ folded, for example - but no-one likes change. And this is a big one: a European publisher with ambition taking over a US firm.
No-one knows what Koch will do, but it wouldn't take a cynic to suggest that it has its own plans for the studio beyond Saints Row. Volition is rife with talent, and Koch's other studios need that sort of expertise. Will it seed top guys into other studios to raise their game? After all, if Koch wants to make use of the excellent Red Faction Guerilla tech, then it may need guidance from the guys that created it.
We hope that Koch decides to be sensible with the studio, because it seems to be on the cusp of creating something truly great. Tucked away in that studio in Champaign, a world away from the steel-and-glass monstrosities that others favour, there's a bunch of down to earth guys making excellent games.
It would be a shame if Volition shed any staff before then, or if it was forced to work on other properties. A next-gen Saints Row with the Red Faction destruction tech would be a game worth getting excited about.
Dildo Island: Riptide? Not so much.