Following years of hints and teases, Darksiders III, from publisher #THQNordic (formerly Nordic Games) and developer Gunfire Games, was officially announced on May 2 following a leak via Amazon.com mere hours before.
#Darksiders is a series of action-adventure games that draws inspiration from franchises like Zelda, God of War, and even loot games such as Diablo. Players control of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse through epic quests across an apocalyptic Earth, fantasy-inspired takes on Heaven and Hell, and other mythical realms.
After the smoke cleared and initial hype died down, I had the opportunity to reflect on the significance of this announcement and speculate on what it means for THQ Nordic going forward. Ultimately, I reached the conclusion that this is the most important project of the company's existence thus far. How things play out with this title have a substantial chance of determining the company's way forward as a video game publisher.
So what makes Darksiders III so significant? A little backstory on THQ Nordic should help put things into perspective.
Nordic Games Takes the Next Step
Prior to the acquisition of multiple properties owned by the original THQ (which filed for bankruptcy in 2012), Nordic was essentially an unknown. I remember reading the results of the THQ assets auction and thinking to myself, "Who the hell is Nordic Games?" I wasn't the only one. Turns out, Nordic Games, which later changed its name to THQ Nordic, was a small video game publisher founded in 2011 and based in Austria.
The closure of THQ and subsequent sale of all its properties was an opportunity for Nordic to arm itself with multiple IPs that already had some degree of recognition, and to get its name all over the video games press in one fell swoop. Suddenly, this young company was the owner of multiple relatively well-known franchises like Darksiders, Red Faction and MX vs. ATV. It went from virtual unknown to the talk of the industry literally overnight.
To go along with their existing stature as a smaller, relatively obscure publisher, Nordic's portfolio of games had left a lot to be desired. Prior to the announcement of Darksiders III, Nordic's line-up consisted primarily of low-budget PC titles and ports such as Darksiders II: Deathfinitive Edition for PS4, XBO and PC, and De Blob for Steam.
A few exceptions aside, Nordic releases have failed to generate much in the way of impressive sales numbers, critical acclaim or meaningful mind-share. Given the seeming desire to take the next step as a publisher, it has been needing something that could both garner immediate attention and have a high likelihood of performing well critically.
That's where Darksiders comes in.
The Importance of 'Darksiders'
Darksiders is a multi-million selling franchise that has been mostly very well received by audiences and critics. Many have praised it for its combat, level/puzzle design, and its compelling lore and characters. It also has a surprisingly strong base of established fans who have been eagerly awaiting a sequel. (A sequel, it's worth adding, that some thought would never come.)
With its well established gameplay formula, setting, and history of stellar sales numbers, Darksiders III may very well be the game that THQ Nordic needs to really establish itself as a major player in the industry.
But there may be far more riding on the success of Darksiders III than just Nordic's big coming-out party.
As previously stated, until now Nordic's releases have overwhelmingly consisted of low-budget titles in addition to various ports. So it isn't anywhere near a crazy assumption to think that Darksiders III is their biggest and most expensive production to date, especially when we factor in the inevitable marketing push. It's also common knowledge that larger, more costly projects carry far more risk, particularly in the games industry where one title can single-handedly make or break a company. If this game under-performs, it could potentially seriously hurt the chances of THQ Nordic releasing projects of a similar larger scale in the future. (Such as maybe a new Red Faction.) Thus, possibly resulting in the company returning exclusively to its older, safer ways instead of funding high-risk, high-reward projects. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course. They are a business after all.
On the other hand, Darksiders III carries a great deal of potential to help the company grow into something bigger and more exciting. If successful, not only would that indicate a probable fourth entry in the series, it could very well embolden THQ Nordic to fund even more large projects, as well as try and revive other notable IPs it owns. (Like Red Faction, hint hint, wink wink.) No longer would it be a purveyor of risk-averse projects, but rather a widely recognized and respected publisher whose games belong on store shelves alongside the industry giants.
As dramatic as it may sound, the future of THQ Nordic as a video game publisher could very well lie in the hands of Darksiders III. Its performance will certainly be a major factor in how the company chooses to operate in the years to come.
To be clear, I do not have any real knowledge of the financial situation. Meaning I do not know the budget of the game, Nordic's profits and available funds, sales expectations or anything like that. I am merely speculating through a combination of industry knowledge and inferences based on THQ Nordic's behavior as a company.
While we wait to see how Darksiders III performs, lets take a little time to appreciate the fact that this series has managed to live on despite the death of its former publisher/owner. The game also seems to be in very good hands. Gunfire Games has proven to have a solid track record including developing the highly regarded Oculus Rift title, Chronos, plus their ranks also include a number of folks who worked on Darksiders and Darksiders II.
Are you excited about Darksiders III? Feel free to leave a comment and thank you for reading!