No next-gen GTA until 2007?

Take-Two executives dodge PS3 exclusivity and launch questions, tell analysts not to expect any next-generation sequels from Rockstar Games until November 2006--at the earliest.

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When it released its quarterly earnings report today, Rockstar Games' parent company, Take-Two Interactive, narrowed the time frame for the debut of the Grand Theft Auto series on next-generation consoles. As part of its outlook for its ongoing 2006 fiscal year, which ends on Halloween, the company said it is readying "a sequel of a Rockstar brand for a current-generation console system." (Emphasis added.) Though Take-Two did say it will release a new GTA game for the PlayStation Portable during that time, the statement eliminated any chance that a next-gen installment in the franchise will make its traditional late-October window.

Indeed, Take-Two's earnings announcement went on to explicitly say that, other than the just-announced Table Tennis, no Rockstar game will arrive on next-generation consoles before the beginning of its next fiscal year. "For [fiscal] 2007, the company anticipates a strong next-generation lineup from Rockstar Games, including sequels to several of Rockstar's most successful franchises," Take-Two's statement said. That means the earliest a next-gen GTA could arrive would be November 2006, right around the same time Sony is expected to launch its PlayStation 3 in the US.

But while all GTA games since 2001's Grand Theft Auto III have debuted on a Sony console--2004's Grand Theft Auto Advance excepted--Take-Two executives refused to say if the first next-gen GTA will be a PS3-exclusive. When asked by an analyst in a postannouncement conference call if Take-Two has decided to partner with either Sony or Microsoft for the "next console version of GTA," CEO Paul Eibeler demurred. "Our guys are very, very excited about the opportunity that next-gen hardware presents," he said.

When asked by the same analyst if Take-Two could possibly release two different GTA games--one for the Xbox 360 and another for the PS3, Eibeler gave a similarly cautious response. "Anything is possible," he said "but, you know, it will be what you would expect in a great Grand Theft Auto product." He then directed the analyst "to refer back to our press release, where we said that we have a strong lineup of next-generation products from Rockstar in [fiscal] 2007, including some of their best franchises."

After UBS analyst Mike Wallace asked about how a November PS3 launch would affect Take-Two's 2006 fiscal year, Eibeler clammed up entirely. "I'm going to go underneath your question," he said. "In terms of when is PlayStation 3 really going to launch...our crystal ball really doesn't address that, and we certainly look at Sony in terms of further information there."

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