UFC President Dana White appeared on stage during the EA press conference at E3 to announce the partnership. It was an awkward moment considering White once declared war with EA after the game publisher declined to do business with UFC. He even went as far as threatening UFC fighters with bans if they signed on to appear in an EA game. EA Sports later claimed that White was talking to EA, which is a separate entity from EA Sports.
THQ will get an undisclosed cash payment as part of the deal; finances that will help keep the company afloat. Cash is a necessary commodity for THQ as analysts predict the game publisher only has enough money to stay in business for about a year.
The company reached an agreement with the UFC on an exclusive licensing deal in 2007 and released the first game under that deal in 2009.
UFC 2009: Undisputed released to solid reviews and strong sales. The game sold more than a million units during its first month and 3.5 million overall. Despite having similar reviews, sales of UFC Undisputed 2010 were well below expectations. THQ shipped 2.6 million copies of the game but first month sales only tallied up to 414,000. UFC Undisputed 3, which released in February, failed to reach its break-even point of 2 million copies sold.
THQ confirmed a fourth installment in the UFC Undisputed franchise was in development before the company decided to sell of the license.
New THQ President Jason Rubin, who co-created Naughty Dog studio, is trying to lead the company through a difficult transition. The publisher has been looking for ways to cut cost and increase earnings through measures such as lay-offs and lower development costs. Rubin has changed the focal point to original IP rather than licensed games, which tend to cost much more.
Shutting down the development comes at a price as the publisher expects to spend $1.1 million on severance packages, $1.3 million on charges associated to housing the developer, and $500,000 related to long-lived assets.
No details were given on how many games the contract with EA will last or when the first title will release. Production of the game is expected to be split between EA Tiburon and EA Canada.
EA is not new to the mixed martial arts fighting genre. EA Tiburon released EA Sports MMA in 2010. The game was well-received by critics but failed financially. Because THQ held the exclusive rights to the likeness of UFC fighters, EA Sports signed Strikeforce for the game’s main partnership. Partly due to the lack of well-known fighters, the game sold a pitiful 45,000 in its first month.
Despite the poor sales of EA Sports MMA and all games in the genre, EA vowed the franchise would get a sequel. Now, the best-selling sports game producer will be teaming up with the most recognized mixed martial arts promotion company in the world. The only question left is when it will be playable.