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E3: THQ gives up UFC license

THQ on Monday said it ended an agreement to publish games based on the UFC license, a big blow for the struggling Agoura Hills game publisher that was once the undisputed master of MMA video games.

At the same time that THQ made its announcement via a news release, UFC President Dana White strode onto a stage at Electronic Arts' news conference at E3 in Los Angeles to announce a multiyear agreement with EA to make mixed martial arts games.

"Our fans are so passionate, it's insane," White said at the media event. "Now we’ve hooked up with the biggest video game company on the planet.  We can distribute this game to the 175 countries, in 22 different languages and to the over half a billion homes that we’re in."

UFC's holding company, Zuffa, issued a joint statement with THQ saying it had "reached an agreement resulting in Zuffa licensing to Electronic Arts the right to publish video games based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand, effective today. The agreement results in an undisclosed cash payment to THQ. Additionally, THQ will continue to publish its existing console and mobile titles through March 31, 2013."

EA did not say how many games the deal involved, nor when the games would be released.

The news, greeted with cheers at EA's event at the Orpheum Theatre, no doubt had the opposite effect at THQ, which has suffered multiple financial setbacks over the last two years.

The company last week hired a new president, Jason Rubin, a respected game developer who co-created the Naughty Dog game studio in Santa Monica, to help chart THQ's course through a crucial period.

Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, estimated that THQ has enough cash left to keep operations running at current levels for about a year, unless it somehow raises more money -- a feat it may accomplish by relinquishing the UFC license to EA.

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