Grand Theft Auto IV delayed to 2008

[UPDATE] Take-Two pushes back blockbuster to next year, saying "time-intensive" nature of dual-platform development; annual earnings estimate plummets by over $200 million.

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The overcrowded monkey house that was the 2007 holiday release schedule lost one of its 800-pound gorillas today. Without warning, this afternoon Take-Two Interactive stunned the game industry by announcing it was delaying Grand Theft Auto IV to the second quarter of its 2008 fiscal year, which begins on February 1, 2008. Published by Take-Two subsidiary Rockstar Games, the crime-action title had been slated to ship for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in North America on October 16, 2007.

"Certain elements of development proved to be more time-intensive than expected, especially given the commitment for a simultaneous release on two very different platforms," said Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick in a statement.

Unsurprisingly, not having GTA IV in its 2007 fiscal-year lineup has put a serious dent in Take-Two's earnings expectations. The company's guidance is now for net revenue of $950 million to $1.0 billion for the 12 months ending October 31, and a loss of $1.25 to $1.35 per share. That figure is over $200 million lower than prior estimates of $1.2 billion to $1.25 billion in annual revenue--which would have been "break even results" according to the company's second-quarter earnings statement. With the AO-rated Manhunt 2 on indefinite hold, Take-Two now expects net revenue between $275 million to $300 million for its fourth fiscal quarter, with a net loss of $0.05 to $0.10 per share.

"Obviously, we are very disappointed to reduce guidance after having previously reaffirmed it," said Take-Two CEO Ben Feder. "Other than a matter of timing, the movement of Grand Theft Auto IV does not compromise Take-Two in any way. We are in sound financial condition and have a great product lineup."

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