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

Thursday, 30th 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.

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25 Comments

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  1. Hcw87

    This guy seem full of himself.

    Also disagree about adding zombies to RDR, didn’t fit at all i think. The reason people bought the DLC (me included) is because the core game is just so fucking good. Any DLC would sell.

    #1 11 months ago
  2. taternuggets

    I couldn’t give two fucks about multiple protagonists…

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Calryon

    This guy is an idiot.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. Christopher Jack

    #4 11 months ago
  5. SlayerGT

    This is the reason I wish the Housers were more vocal. Only thing Zelnick contributes to these games are his funds.

    Edit: @3 No, he’s not.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. Christopher Jack

    @1, You didn’t really expect a CEO to be slamming his own company & discredit their own success in public, did you?

    As for zombies, it depends on how well they’ve implemented it and I personally think RDR nailed both the campaign and MP of Undead Nightmares and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing zombie dlc of that quality and calibre in GTA V either.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. Djoenz

    He makes a lot of sense. I never trade in my games. I like to collect them as well you could say.

    “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.”

    Thats heavy man…Now I understand why they add MP in most of the games and push DLC, but Bioshock Infinite is quite the opposite. Interesting.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. SlayerGT

    @6 Im personally working on a design for GTAV dlc to send to Rockstar for consideration. Its not zombies, but I think it would be just as cool a addon.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. MidlifeAxe

    This guy seems like a bit of a douche.

    There are a few things I disagree with him on.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. Djoenz

    @8
    No zombies then GTFO…no seriously like tht will ever push through :P
    I never played RDR but I did play/bought Undead Nightmare lmao. I dont think I have to explain why hehe. Standalone great dlc imo.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. Yoshi

    “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.”

    Simples.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. FrankWhite

    Wow, this is so disappointing to see. A CEO of a major publisher is talking about successful MMOs and doesn’t mention EVE? I am not an EVE fanboy, I don’t even play EVE, but I do love sandboxes and it pains me to see the MMO genre so dominated by shitty, generic, recycled themeparks.

    This CEO is exactly why. He is looking to WoW and EQ as “safe” themeparks. They don’t even consider sandbox MMOs as a possibility, despite EVE’s decade of growth, expansion packs and millions upon millions in profits.

    Jesus christ, how do these people even work in the game industry, let alone run these companies? Yeah, recycling the same crap WoW clones in the US doesn’t work, but that hardly means that MMOs don’t work in this market.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. Djoenz

    @11
    Yeah but I dont think he meant after those 8 weeks support will be nonexistent. He makes sense imo. He also mentioned “Lets make sure to give people DLC, often free”!

    #13 11 months ago
  14. SlayerGT

    @13 Or you could ruin the ending of a game so your hardcore fans will bitch once completing it within those 8 weeks and then you can promise a patch 10weeks later that will fix it…but it won’t ;)

    #14 11 months ago
  15. Djoenz

    @14
    Haha good one. Reminds me of Mass Effect 3.

    #15 11 months ago
  16. SlayerGT

    @15 Dingdingding! Tell em what he’s won bob!! :P

    #16 11 months ago
  17. Djoenz

    No seriously tht was quite hilarious. It makes me wonder hmmm Im laughing my ass off now haha..great strategy.

    #17 11 months ago
  18. SlayerGT

    its like retail/ digital episodic content :)

    #18 11 months ago
  19. Lengendaryboss

    I wouldn’t say this CEO is douche or an idiot: i would say he is confident and proud in his job maybe its his overconfidence that gives off an aura people don’t like: that part about quality and used games is spot on although, give the user a reason to keep hold of that game and they won’t sell it but the 8 weeks part puzzles me GTA IV I have owned since launch and any other Rockstar game for at least a year.

    #19 11 months ago
  20. KAP

    You people are like crackheads. Cursing the dealer that’s selling you fools crack. What ever you say here wont matter at all, your monies are going in his pockets come September 17th.

    Just saying!

    #20 11 months ago
  21. tmac2011

    this game is going to be awesome and number 4 is fuking so pissed off he didnt type anything wow

    #21 11 months ago
  22. Old MacDonald

    Despite the odd comments in this thread, Zelnick makes a lot more sense than most video game CEOs.

    #22 11 months ago
  23. NocturnalB

    The reason he gives the aura of a jackass is because he is a professional CEO. Check out his resume. Always been a high up talking head, he’s a professional CEO which means he’s a professional at reading the lines he’s given and most likely at being a criminal. when you’re in the business of being an asshole you tend to be one. Unfortunately they are usually the ones with the money and power.

    #23 11 months ago
  24. Moonwalker1982

    @2

    I really can give a fuck about multiple protagonists, actually i give three fucks. Nah seriously, i think this is the best new thing for the franchise. Cause we all know how much this genre needs something new. The multiple protagonists feature will mean more sidemissions, more story and more depth in missions especially. Actually one of the new features i’m looking forward to most.

    #24 11 months ago
  25. Lengendaryboss

    @23
    Thats a more aggressive and non-passive understanding of what i said.

    #25 11 months ago