The Grand Theft Auto series boasts one of the longest-running and successful franchises in the industry, a titan-sized amalgamation of open-world crime sprees, wanderlust, and a public relations philosophy surrounding the communicative efficiency of a baseball bat. Taking the stage at the Credit Suisse 2012 Technology Conference (via GameSpot (opens in new tab) ), Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Rockstar parent studio Take-Two, attributed the series' latest achievement of 125 million copies sold overall to a release philosophy acknowledging and circumventing the "risk" of annualization.
Zelnick nevertheless applauded Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and the legion of developers keeping the Call of Duty machine oiled and running every year—perhaps the definitive example of an annualized franchise's cemented longevity. Still, such a business model isn't de rigueur for Take-Two.
"It's our view that if you want intellectual properties to be permanent, then you run the risk in that circumstance of having consumers fall out of love with that franchise," Zelnick said. "[Activision] obviously views the world differently.
"That's never been the case with one of our properties," he continued. "Ours do better each time. Our view is it's hard to make permanent intellectual properties if you annualize it, with the exception of sports titles. So far, that's proven to be the case. IP that is annualized eventually seems to hit the wall, and we don't want our IP to hit the wall."
Zelnick correlated the Grand Theft Auto games' irregular releases to the James Bond films, a comparison of two franchises which both happen to feature people with absolutely no qualms for letting off steam in public. But Zelnick's drive was to keep interest levels up in the red as a result of the prolonged wait in the same attention-grabbing way Bond does best. It ultimately results in a "special" series, he claimed.