As THQ managed a successful turnaround for its most recent fiscal year, the company is keeping a close eye on development costs going forward.
In a Gamasutra-attended conference call after THQ's quarterly results, the publisher said that a relatively low initial investment in the upcoming Warhammer 40,000 MMO means that the game can reach breakeven more easily, as the low-cost Metro 2033 turned profit.
Currently, THQ-owned Vigil Games is working on a Warhammer 40,000 MMO, a title that THQ CEO Brian Farrell said on the company's most recent financial results call is coming along nicely. And with a low initial investment, Farrell said that subscriber figures don't have to be huge in order for the game to be a success.
"One of the reasons that we think our costs are under control here is because we think we're building this game right," Farrell explained. The exec said that the game will initially cost on the high-end of a non-MMO triple-A retail game.
"We started with a very small and experienced MMO team who gave us the very wise advice to prove out all the technology and world-building tools before you start adding to the team and really ramping up all of the content that an MMO requires. That's why we think our budget is going to be very competitive."
Farrell stopped short of offering the subscriber numbers that would create a break-even for the MMO, but said: "You can imagine that given the fact that we have a lower initial investment than some of our competitors talk about... we don't need the kind of subscriber levels that people throw around, like a million subscribers, to make a lot of money on this title. If we get anywhere near that level, we'll be making a lot of money."
The CEO also said that THQ is happy with the new property Metro 2033, a post-apocalyptic game based on the works of Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game was developed by Kiev, Ukraine's 4A Games, which was founded by former members of the Stalker development team.
"We've always said that we had very modest expectations on [Metro 2033], but that it had very low development costs on that high-quality title," Farrell said. "It's a very profitable title for us. We like that model going forward, of getting that level of quality and still having a very low breakeven on the title, where even if we only get pretty modest levels of sales, we're still making good money."
Farrell said that a lot of sales were done through PC, with about two-thirds of total sales coming from Europe, and the rest in North America. The game also released on Xbox 360.
The CEO also said that games for Xbox 360's Project Natal are "much lower [cost] in general" to develop, although the company is watching the market closely to see how it will price casual Natal and PlayStation Move games at retail.