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Homefront misses with critics, THQ stock takes a beating

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Spooked by disappointing reviews of THQ’s newest action title, Homefront, investors pummeled the game publisher’s stock Tuesday, pushing it down $1.25, or 21%, to $4.69.

Homefront, the most expensive project undertaken by the Agoura Hills game publisher, takes place in a dystopian future in which North Korean forces occupy the United States. The game, based on a script by John Milius, puts players in the shoes of a civilian resistance fighter.

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The game garnered a relatively weak average score of 72 out of 100 from 28 reviews by Tuesday afternoon, according to Metacritic, a site that aggregates reviews. A score of 80 is considered the minimum required for a shooter game such as Homefront to be commercially viable.

Not all reviewers had weighed in by then, however, including two influential game sites, Gamespot and Kotaku.

So far, players seem eager to snap up Homefront to see for themselves. On Amazon, Homefront was the No. 1-selling game, outselling Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version, two hot sellers from Nintendo. Strong pre-orders, or customers who paid in advance to have a copy of the game sent to them on the day it releases, have put Homefront on Amazon’s top 100 titles for 28 days. To break even, THQ has said it needs to sell 2 million copies of Homefront.

The title is the first of several by the struggling game publisher, which is attempting to transform itself from a maker of lightweight games into a company that competes in the high-stakes arena of big-budget titles, hiring a former film and TV scriptwriter, Danny Bilson, to head up its creative efforts.

Brian Farrell, the chief executive of THQ, said in an interview that he was not concerned about the review scores.

‘The game seems to resonate with consumers,’ Farrell said, noting that the title received the largest pre-orders for any single title in the company’s history. ‘It’s a mass-market title. Let’s see what players think.’

Among professional game critics, there seems to be little consensus on the title. Reviews of the game ranged widely, from a low of 50 to a high of 93. Twelve out of the 28 reviews were 80 or above, and many gave the game’s multi-player portion decent marks. The harshest review, from Destructoid, said, ‘For all of the campaign’s missteps and missed opportunities, there is a silver lining for Homefront: its multiplayer.’

For many players of the shooter genre, the multi-player mode, in which as many as 32 people can play online against one another at once, is the most important aspect.

UPDATED 1:50 p.m.: This post was updated to include THQ’s closing stock price and to encompass more recent reviews of Homefront.

-- Alex Pham and Ben Fritz

Related:

Danny Bilson aims for turnaround at THQ with video game Homefront


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