Strauss Zelnick: There’s more to Take-Two than Grand Theft Auto

If you’ve read any of our Take-Two interviews in recent years, you’ll have read the same story: Take-Two is no-longer the Grand Theft Auto company.

It’s something CEO Strauss Zelnick likes to remind us at every available moment. They have over 30 1m+ selling brands, he says.

But that’s actually been the case for a few years now. We know that. But what’s been different this year is how the firm has finally managed to crack the potentially lucrative digital market. It’s even increased its annual estimates based on micro-transactions, game downloads and mobile.

The digital side of its business is booming. But Zelnick says it’s not all about making money. We’ve seen on-going engagement with our games between big releases that didn’t exist five years ago. We call that recurrent consumer spending – spending on everything except full-game downloads,” Zelnick says.

There’s no doubt that we’re investing more in online. Whether that’s NBA 2K Online in China or the Civilization title we’re working on in Korea, whether that’s Grand Theft Auto or other forms of other engagement, such as virtual currency inside an NBA game or engaging with WWE Supercard.

Having consumers engaged online is an important part of the business. It’s not just for us, but for the entire industry. The important bit is not because it’s digital, but that it reflects engagement.”

Like many of its rivals Take-Two has been trying its hand at mobile gaming. During its last financial quarter, its launches included tablet and smartphone collectible card game WWE Supercard. It even released 2007 Xbox 360 title BioShock on iOS at the end of August.

We’ve learnt that until devices are great game platforms for current console releases and become more powerful from a graphics and a processing point of view, we’re limited to older titles for tablets,” Zelnick says.What we have become very excited about is companion apps. Most recently WWE Supercard has been a big success for us. And our NBA title has benefitted from companion apps.

Like everyone else, we can’t have the Angry Birds and Candy Crush Sagas of the world. Those games are best in class because Rovio and Supercell know what to do for mobile. What we’re less focused on is standalone smartphone and tablet content that is unrelated to a core release. I’m not saying we don’t do it, but it’s of less interest to us.”

The firm has two new IPs coming to market soon, too. First, there’s team-based FPS Evolve from Left 4 Dead studio Turtle Rock in February 2015, then Gearbox’s arena-shooter Battleborn set to launch in the 2016 fiscal year. It’s a good time to launch new IP, following big sales for Titanfall, Watch Dogs and Destiny. But Zelnick insists the success of Activision and Ubisoft’s titles has had no impact on its plans.

The launches of Watch Dogs and Destiny haven’t shaped our strategy,” Zelnick says. What Watch Dogs showed us was something we knew already which is in the early stages of a console cyle it is easier to get a good result. Later, quality parameters go up. The market is more forgiving now becauase when consumers buy new hardware they’re anxious to buy software to enjoy on it.

Watch Dogs benefitted from that. And we too have the benefit of that window, where consumers are avidly interested in software for next-gen. And the release schedule has been pretty barren so far. It’s not as super competitive.”

He concludes: We have Evolve and Battleborn, and we have a lot of titles in development, and in time the market is going to understand that when we say we have great titles in the works we don’t say words lightly. I‘m confident about our upcoming releases.”

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