Gaming Money Makers: Grand Theft Auto V

April 27, 2014
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At a cheerful conference Skype call on April 18, 2014, for some hand-picked at-home video game review media and techno journos, Take Two interactive executives joked about just how promiscuously successful Grand Theft Auto V was 2013. Record third-quarter earning of slightly less than a cool quarter-billion dollars between its launch in September and 31 December. New downloadable content for the gangster game, which will take the form of scores of extra story missions, was also confirmed on earlier this week on Monday evening. Still, the company’s surprisingly low key and cautious-sounding CEO, Strauss Zelnick, would not confirm an exact date for the first pack’s availability.

Grand Theft Auto V

It has been a good year for the veteran games firms. Take Two had several other successful titles on release in the run up to Christmas including the brilliant basketball evergreen NBA 2K14 and wrestling title WWE 2k14. However, the latest GTA installment is the key reason why the firm announced a net revenue increase to $1.86 billion, compared to $415.8m for the fiscal third quarter 2013. Net income from continuing operations was reported at $578.4m, up from $70.9m in the previous year.

Pretty good strokes also for Grand Theft Auto’s online multiplayer mode, GTA Online. Despite setbacks – the service underwent a number of technical issues over its initial launching phase – Take Two said during the call that more than 70 percent of surveyed GTA owners had sampled and then been satisfied.

Grand Theft Auto V is now one of the best selling video games of all time, neck and neck with old-school home runs like Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Brothers. Additionally, a PC conversion of Grand Theft Auto V was released this week, to be followed by enhanced versions for PS4 and Xbox One.

Grand Theft Auto V

Such numbers and news are not for sneering at, but there are naysayers. One in particular, Bloomberg’s persnickety—and some say greed befuddled—analyst Michael Olson, insisted that GTA Online was not earning at the high rate as he had predicted. Not surprisingly, there were a vocal minority of investors on the conference call who badgered Zelnick, asking about tactics and strategies for catching up on earnings lost during the online mode’s tricky opening month.  A respectful Zelnick kept up a kind of Zen attitude while pointing out that startup issues and financial hiccups and burps are sort of de rigeur. And somebody drew quite bit of laughter by pointing out the company had done far better than Obamacare for a blind start-up.

The real question now, especially for those who’ve fed at the Take Two trough, like those my youngest used to refer to as Obesios, is whether Strauss Zelnick and his savvy crew can come even slightly close to the kudos and financial earning power they showed in 2013. No worries, I say. They’ve got a brand-new, sexy, guns, gangs, hip-hop & rock ’n’ roll game, Evolve, good to go in mid September.  Yes, indeed, and I do not use the word ‘savvy’ lightly, Zelnick and his PR acolytes are already offering a taste here and a taste there to Cassandras of the specialist games press. I was also informed at CSE in Vegas that the tried-and-true in NBA and WWE brands is going to be “enhanced and more pizzazzed-up” this time around.

Grand Theft Auto V

Does Take Two’s subsidiary label, Rockstar Games, have any plans? Well, a little bird with a pronounced Liverpool accent (formerly a singer with the good ol’ Psychedelic Furs, maybe?) gossips a lot and told me there’s a sequel to Red Dead Redemption due and its body count is high enough for your congressman to form a committee about.

Finally, yet another subsidiary, Rockstar North will finally release its long overdue seventies-style conspiracy thriller, Agent. One thing is for sure. ‘cos the Bagg Man is connected. Agent is going to blow everybody away when it hits the stores!!! One way I know that is that both George Clooney, wearing his executive producer hat, and the mosquito muérta who is determined to be a trillionaire, Ashton Kutcher, are bidding beaucoup bucks for the movie rights.

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