Take-Two CEO talks GTA 5, used games, MMOs

Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:41 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick spoke at the Cowen Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference today, discussing MMOs, GTA 5, how zombies sell, and games will need multiple protagonists. Get the quotient quotables below.

MMOs “don’t work” in the US

According to Zelnick, the firm is investing in MMOs outside the United States only due to the fact they “don’t work”, but apparently do in Asia. Zelnick believes the only two MMOs which has carved out a large enough audience in the US are WoW and EverQuest.

“We’re actively investing in online MMOs; we’re not doing it in the US. Why? Because MMOs don’t work here. We’ve stayed away from that market and instead we went to Asia where at any given time ten or twenty are successful in China generating lots of revenue,” he said, adding that Blizzard has even learned this lesson by delaying its Titan MMO into possibly 2016.

“We’re actively investing in online MMOs; we’re not doing it in the US. Why? Because MMOs don’t work here.”

“A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons–one of our competitors just recently announced they’re restarting an MMO project in the US,” said Zelnick. “We look at it and say ‘How many MMOs have ever been successful in the US?’ Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest.

“That’s kind of a bad slugging percentage.”

Thus, the reason Take-Two is partnering with Tencent to bring NBA 2K Online and its Civilization MMO to the region.

“We figured, we don’t really know China very well, so we partnered with the best company in China: Tencent,” he said. “They taught us the business, we taught them something about sports game development and we’ve launched NBA 2K Online with virtually no economic risk and a straight shot to the upside.”

Games will need multiple protagonists like GTA 5

The GTA 5 publisher also believes that in order for future titles to succeed, they will need multiple protagonists. Calling GTA the firm’s “most important brand,” Zelnick said that the game will “redefine what an open-world game is,” and it will be difficult for competitors to do the same.

“You’re going to have to have multiple protagonists in video games going forward.”

“We think Grand Theft Auto 5 is going to redefine what an open-world game is and will be,” he said. “We also think that you’re going to have to have multiple protagonists in video games going forward, and we actually know how to do it because we’re the first ones to do it. It’s going to be very, very difficult for our competitors to do this. And they’re going to have to do it in our opinion.

“This is going to be the first video game where you can shift seamlessly among three protagonists and if you think about it, one of the complicated factors in a video game has been the first person has to play all the emotional roles in the story; the good guy, the bad guy, the victim, the policeman, the cop, the hero,” Zelnick said. “And, for the first time, you’re going to be able to have three protagonists and that will actually drive the story forward.”

GTA 5 pre-orders are doing “very, very, very, very, very, very well”

Zelnick said pre-orders for the title are doing “very, very, very, very, very, very well,” and is of the belief that “A” games like GTA are what sell, not “B” games, and customers only want to purchase the best intellectual property out there. One such title was Red Dead Redemption, a game with “immensely profitable” expansion packs.

The one which sold the most, however, was Undead Nightmare and its zombified cowpokes and wildlife.

“We had the presence of mind to add zombies to the title; and everyone always loves zombies,” Zelnick said. “I’d like to do zombies in everything, but I probably can’t say that here. But they do sell.”

Used game sales

Finally, Zelnick touched upon the subject of used game sales on next-generation consoles. According to him, if Microsoft is going to get a cut from sales of second hand titles, so should the publishers.

“There’s no question that if Microsoft has figured out a way to tax used games, then we should get paid, too,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine why they should and we shouldn’t.”

“As opposed to whining or figuring out ways to punish the consumer for buying used games, we better delight the consumer.”

However, Zelnick is of the belief that if you create a game which “delights” the consumer, the less likely they are to trade it in – something he has touched upon many, many times in the past.

“Our view about used games has been, as opposed to whining or figuring out ways to punish the consumer for buying used games, we’ve figured out we better delight the consumer,” he said. “Let’s push up our quality, which you’ve seen in our Metacritic scores, and then let’s make sure to give people DLC, often free, three or four weeks out; which is the time you’re at risk for them trading in their game.

“If you can keep the game in consumer’s hands for eight weeks, you almost don’t care anymore about used game sales because it’s the first 8 weeks that really nail you.”

You can read more on all the above through the Gamespot links, which was listening in to the talk.

Alternatively, you can listen to it yourself through Take-Two’s investor relations page. You will have to register though.