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Grand Theft Auto Parent Publisher Defends Microtransactions

"We are not in the business of erecting toll booths along the way of gameplay," Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick says.

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Virtual currency and microtransactions are hot-button issues in gaming today, and now Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Grand Theft Auto parent publisher Take-Two Interactive, has spoken out to defend his company's implementation of such measures in its games.

"We're in the business of delighting consumers... that is a different point of view than most of our peers in the business" -- Strauss Zelnick on microtransactions

"Virtual currency done right just further enhances gameplay and engages consumers with our brands. And when I say done right, we are not in the business of erecting toll booths along the way of gameplay," Zelnick said this week during the Cowen & Company Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference in New York City.

"We're in the business of delighting consumers. And when we design our virtual currency packs, we do it in a way that will make consumers happier, not sadder that they are engaged with our games," he added. "That is a different point of view than most of our peers in the business."

It's all in the way of keeping gamers engaged with Take-Two's games long after release, Zelnick said. Just five years ago, Zelnick pointed out, the standard business practice was to release a game and then essentially walk away and move on to your next project. But now games are supported for periods of months, and sometimes years, with new content.

"We do it from the backdrop of delighting consumers," Zelnick said about post-release add-on content. "When we sell a consumer an add-on content pack, we want them to feel like they got more than they paid for, not less; and the message boards reflect that that's true."

Zelnick said Borderlands 2 is a prime example of how Take-Two puts its best foot forward for post-release content. In the 18 months since the game launched in 2012, the company has released 12 significant downloadable content packs and numerous smaller updates. He also said Take-Two has seen "good success" with its DLC season pass offerings, suggesting we'll see more in the future.

But expansion packs and DLC passes only crack the surface of what's possible for long-term revenue from a single title. During the presentation, Zelnick highlighted the success Take-Two has already had in the "recurrent consumer spending" department. He pointed out that nearly half of Take-Two's digitally delivered net revenue last year came from virtual currency sales led by offerings for Grand Theft Auto Online, NBA 2K14, and NBA 2K Online in China. More than 70 percent of all Grand Theft Auto V players have played Grand Theft Auto Online, but it's unclear how many have actually spent money on the game's virtual currency, GTA$.

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