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Deep Silver: From Dead Island to Saint’s Row

In the aftermath of the THQ auction there was a lot of interest in who bid for what and which franchises got bought up. All the big names showed up to the table: EA, ActiBlizzard, WB Games, Ubisoft. After the dust settled it appeared all but one of the big names were notably missing from the list of bidders. More peculiar, the biggest spender was Koch Media spending a combined $28.2 million on the publishing rights to Metro franchise and developer Volition, with the rights to the Saints Row franchise. If you have watched the industry for a while or keen to google companies you’ve never heard of, you might have drawn the line from Koch Media to Deep Silver to Dead Island. Kudos to you, but I’m going to look a bit further in the search of answering one simple question: Who is Deep Silver?

From that question a multitude of smaller ones pop-up: Where did they get $28 million? What else have they published? Are they going to ruin “insert beloved THQ franchise?” All great questions that a brief stroll through history might clear up.

The Beginning

The year is 1994, Franz Koch and Dr. Klemens Kundratitz establish the Koch Media group, then, consisting of Koch Media Germany and Austria, and of Koch Media Ltd. England. They begin marketing, publishing, and distributing digital media across Europe. Fast forward to the early 2000’s, Koch media has dipped it toes in to video game distribution and publishing, forming partnerships with the still independent Squaresoft, Capcom and Codemasters. They have even published a game that pushed 1 million units in the UK. This is enough for Koch to decide that their video game publishing department needs to expand, and henceforth, in 2002, Deep Silver is born.

Newly minted, Deep Silver continues to build distributing relationships with Japan, becoming the premier distributor for Nintendo games in 2006. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell Deep Silver that they are also a publisher. For the entire first decade of the 21st century they publish mostly casual DS and Wii titles. Their first attempt at publishing a major game comes in the form of Risen an action RPG for Xbox 360 and PC. It was ill received from critics, but Deep Silver is largely unswayed, the benefit of having a parent company that will cover any loses. As we approach 2010, Deep Silver has now accumulated a stable of franchises: Risen, Sacred, Secret Files, Nail’d and a series of Let’s Play titles for the DS. None have yet to breach 70 on Metacritic, but all that would change with a new decade.

Deep Silver Steps into the Spotlight

Deep Silver: Dead Island

Dead Island would strike gold with Deep Silver

Deep Silver enters 2011 with a pretty quiet lineup. A new title from developer Techland, Dead Island, is finally ready for release, after having made its initial debut at E3 2006, and having been pushed back 3 years from its initial release date in 2008. The trailer had been overwhelmingly praised, but dangling a juicy steak in front of gamers, and then delaying three years resulted in a hesitant anticipation. Regardless, Dead Island finally shipped September 6, 2011, and it is met with mixed reviews, but far and away better than anything they had previously published. A particularly glitchy PS3 and Xbox 360 product resulted in those versions suffering a whole 9 points lose off the PC version which went on to get a 80 Metacritic score. The early September release also allowed it to steer clear of the November AAA mayhem, because of this Dead Island hit number 1 on the UK sales charts. A verifiable ‘great’ game was enough to give Deep Silver a boost and open their options to developing bigger titles.

I’ll admit the boost may be a bit delayed but toward the end of 2012 Deep Silver had added new entries to its Secret Files and Risen franchises and co-published Catherine with Atlus for the European release. We now know that they had also begun the bidding process for THQ’s assets following its bankruptcy. Entering the meetings with daddy’s checkbook Deep Silver won the bids for the development studio, Volition and Saints Row IP for  $22.3 million. This includes the rights to Saint’s Row 4, which was revealed to be close to completion in court documents. As well as the Metro license, which includes Last Light, 2033 and 2034 for $5,877,551.

Preparing for the Future

It is the culmination of the past 10 years of Deep Silver that lead me to believe they are definitely a publisher to watch. As the death of the AA game seems inevitable, Deep Silver is now primed to step into the void left by THQ, by publishing a variety of high-end AAA titles and mid tier AA titles. Don’t believe me look at the list of games Deep Silver is publishing just this year. Sacred 3, Metro: Last Light due in March, Dead Island Riptide a month later, Saint’s Row 4, and Sacred Citadel. While Metro: Last Light is still in development at independent studio 4A Games, Deep Silver will have Volition for the time being.

So who is Deep Silver? Deep Silver may very well be the next THQ, but with one important distinction. Deep Silver has Koch Media.