THQ Nordic decided to host a Tuesday AMA session on a website that has been blacklisted by Google since 2015 because it housed suspected child abuse content. In what will surely go down as one of the most bizarre, atonal, and ignorant PR decisions of 2019, the company held the "ask me anything" session on 8chan, a domain that has a reputation for, among other things, child pornography, extremist content, and Nazi sympathizers.
THQ Nordic owns a number of franchises that are well-regarded in the video game community, including Metro, Darksiders, Dead Island, and the upcoming Biomutant. None of those games outwardly seem to target the sort of demographics that 8chan is infamous for - if they did, the games would likely be banned in most countries. THQ Nordic PR director Philipp Brock and product development director Reinhard Pollice held the session earlier today.
The AMA received immediate blowback from games journalists, other devs, and other industry figures, but instead of removing the session immediately, THQ first doubled down on why it was acceptable. THQ tweeted that:
the opportunity was here and we took it, we got apporached in a very friendly and polite manner and were assured, said person (shoutout to Mark) will take care of the nasty stuff. so, here we are.— THQNordic (@THQNordic) February 26, 2019
One of the first questions in the AMA contained a direct reference to pedophilia. In response to the question, which we won't directly reference here but asked where sexualized children could be found, Brock replied with "you got them already we'd say." Throughout the session, users scattered references to child porn and Nazism within their questions about THQ Nordic's various franchises, and Pollice and Brock continued to reply to relevant questions without shutting the process down. This went on for roughly an hour. Some people began questioning whether the account had been hacked, but THQ clarified that it was the company's decision to host the AMA where it was:
Uh, so I just spoke to THQ Nordic’s PR and marketing director and this *is* legit https://t.co/pieqOhl30P— Calvin (@gamesbizuk) February 26, 2019
An hour after that, THQ Nordic tweeted out an apology that was supposedly written by Brock:
"I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site. I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. (...)— THQNordic (@THQNordic) February 26, 2019
The statement expresses that THQ Nordic and Brock are feel "regret to have done [the AMA] in the first place," despite the fact that they weathered nearly sixty minutes of questions that were peppered with inappropriate, offensive, or downright illegal content. THQ Nordic has failed to produce any other responses after this apology, despite many taking umbrage with the fact that the event wasn't stopped as soon as the company became aware of the website it was courting.
THQ Nordic has been ramping up the amount of game properties and studios it owns lately. While it is certainly true today's AMA generated a lot of discussion regarding the company, it's also safe to say that very little of it is anything but backlash, and it won't be a reputation that's easy to shake. While many wait for a proper apology, we now have to come to terms with the fact we live in a world where a studio had to tweet out its stance on child pornography, white supremacy, and racism because its values regarding those came into question.