* THQ shares plunge more than 20 percent
* Reviews of Homefront "a disaster"-analyst
* Company defends new game
(Adds company comment, byline; Updates share price)
By Liana B. Baker
NEW YORK, March 15 THQ Inc's THQI.O shares
fell more than 20 percent after one of its highly anticipated
video games received negative reviews as it hit stores on
THQ's shares plummeted 20.5 percent, or $1.23, to $4.73 in
afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.
The first-person shooter game "Homefront" received a score
of 75 -- out of a possible 100 -- on Metacritic, a website that
tracks reviews of games. The market leader in war-themed games
is Activision Blizzard's (ATVI.O) "Call of Duty: Black Ops,"
which has a score of 88 on the website.
"This score is a bit of a disaster for THQ and the share
price today is reflecting that," said Janco Partners analyst
Mike Hickey. "The market is a quality driven market (and) you
need at least a score of 80 and above on Metacritic to do
The futuristic game, which is set in 2027, features a North
Korean army occupying a bankrupt United States, Japan and
The game's content and an associated marketing blitz have
touched nerves at a time of heightened tension on the Korean
The poor reviews could have an impact on sales at a time
when THQ is seen needing a hit title. Its share price has
floundered more than 20 percent since its third-quarter
earnings on Feb. 2, when its profit outlook was lowered.
THQ defended "Homefront" on Tuesday, calling it a "bold
game" that has strong multiplayer content, or parts of the game
that people can play together online.
"Some critics love 'Homefront' and others don't, which is
bringing the average down," said Julie MacMedan, vice president
of investor relations and corporate communications at THQ.
The company's management has tried to convince investors
that its upcoming games lineup is its strongest ever and sales
of "Homefront," the first release in that slate, is being
closely watched by Wall Street.
(Reporting by Liana B.Baker; editing by Gunna Dickson and