Take-Two boss says the company is a 'hit factory' that'll always prefer delays to 'flops'

GTA 5
(Image credit: Rockstar)
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In its quarterly chat with investors today, GTA publisher Take-Two predicted that it would make a little less money this fiscal year than it had previously forecast: $5.4 to $5.5 billion in net sales, rather than $5.8 to $5.9 billion. And yet, the company is "highly optimistic" about future growth, largely because it has confidence in its upcoming games.

Responding to some gentle investment banker pressure during the Q&A portion of the call, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said that the lower revenue expectation is mainly because people are spending less money in mobile games right now; Take-Two acquired mobile developer Zynga this year, which is expected to account for 45% of the company's net sales. According to Zelnick, the downturn says nothing about Take-Two's outlook for its upcoming "immersive core" games, a lineup he claims is arguably the "most robust" in the entire industry.

"Immersive core" is the label Take-Two uses in place of the more common "triple-A" designation from analyst. It describes games that "have the deepest gameplay and the most hours of content," the company says. The 2K Sports games, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Red Dead Redemption 2 fall into that category, and Take-Two says its April 2022 through March 2025 lineup includes 24 "immersive core" games.

That list includes some already released games, such The Quarry, soon to be released games such as Marvel's Midnight Suns, the delayed Firaxis strategy game, Kerbal Space Program 2, which is out in early access on February 24 after a delay of its own, as well as 2K's NBA, WWE, and golf games. There's a lot of other stuff we don't know about, and Zelnick says thinks the lineup is strong enough to predict "record results in the next three years."

Responding to the question of why it seems to be taking a while for this "robust" pipeline to start putting out games—investment banker pressure intensifies—Zelnick said that there are no "productivity issues" at Take-Two. According to him, the company just insists on releasing hits.

"We definitely have very high quality expectations and demands, and that's reflected in the fact that we're performing across the board," Zelnick said. "This company is a hit factory. We haven't had a disappointing release in as long as I can remember, and that's honestly the most important thing."

"If you have to choose, I'd much rather have the situation we're in, which is [that] we've had some delays and we've had to revise down guidance. I'll choose that any day over taking some flops."

Either Zelnick means that Take-Two hasn't had a financially disappointing release for as long as he can remember, or he's already forgotten about NBA 2K23 and the GTA remasters, but alright, alright, I would agree with a toned down version of that statement: Take-Two doesn't release a lot of duds. Evolve and Battleborn come to mind as 2K-published games that were extinguished before burning as bright as the publisher would've liked, but neither felt like Anthem-scale bombs. And Take-Two-owned developers Rockstar and Firaxis are genuine hit factories, I'd say. (Although one does tend to think of factories as places where things are produced rapidly.)

Zelnick then went on to deliver his version of the endlessly repeated (and wrongly attributed to Shigeru Miyamoto) industry wisdom that a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.

"If you have to choose, I'd much rather have the situation we're in, which is [that] we've had some delays and we've had to revise down guidance," Zelnick said, referring to the lower projected sales for this fiscal year. "I'll choose that any day over taking some flops. That's really the key in this business. We've had issues—we've been around long enough to remember them—where in the past we've had delays in titles, and it was ultimately always worth waiting for, because when we got to the other side, the results were delivered and the small amount of time delay didn't ultimately matter in the context of the results we were able to deliver. I'm hopeful that'll be the case here as well."

I think we can safely assume that GTA 6 is among the big Take-Two games contributing to the company's positive outlook for the future. Rockstar announced earlier this year that the next game in the series is "well underway," and then a bunch of details about it were distributed following a hack. Regarding that hack, Zelnick said during today's call that the incident was "terribly unfortunate," but that there's "no evidence that any material assets were taken."

Another place we can find hints about Take-Two's upcoming games is the list of game titles that leaked out of an Nvidia server last year. Nvidia dismissed the list as testing material, but a lot of games on it have since been announced for PC—too many for it to be a coincidence. The games related to Take-Two on that list were "Bioshock 2022," "BioShock RTX Remaster," and "XCOM 3."

I somehow doubt that we're going to see a new BioShock game this year, but 2K did confirm in 2019 that a new BioShock is in development. Maybe "2022" was just someone's wishful thinking, but it could easily be a part of the slate of games coming out by early 2025, as could XCOM 3 from Firaxis. If that one exists, it seems like something we could hear about next year, after Marvel's Midnight Suns has had some time in the spotlight.

And speaking of Firaxis, Civilization 7 could also happen in this timeframe. It hasn't been announced or even teased at this point, but Take-Two's strategy studio was recently looking for a narrative lead with a "knowledge and passion for world history," and I'm pretty sure that's not because it wants to produce historical romance novels or practice for Jeopardy! appearances. 

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.