GTA IV falling out of Q2 2008 window?

Reports originating in the UK cite comments by Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick as evidence of a further delay. But what did the executive actually say?

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Source: A daisy chain of blog entries, forum posts, and news reports stemming back to a piece on British industry site Gamesindustry.biz.

What we heard: On the morning of August 2, eager gamers were still saving their pennies so they could pick up Grand Theft Auto IV on October 16. However, by the afternoon, the same would-be virtual carjackers were aghast upon hearing Grand Theft Auto IV had been pushed back until the second quarter of 2008.

The delay was especially shocking, since the game looked nearly done at the E3 Media Business Summit in July. It also went against precedent. Since Grand Theft Auto III hit shelves on October 22, 2001, Rockstar Games has stuck to each GTA release date it has announced religiously. Traditionally, that date has been in October, the last month of the fiscal year of Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two Interactive.

Today, though, came a flurry of reports that raised the prospect the game might slip yet again from its Q2 2008 window. The reports stem back to Gamesindustry.biz's summation of a presentation at yesterday's 2007 BMO Capital Markets Interactive Entertainment Summit in New York City. At the event, convened by the titular financial firm, a number of luminaries shared their thoughts on the state of the game industry today, including THQ president and CEO Brian Farrell, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.

Also on hand was Strauss Zelnick (pictured), the recently installed chairman of Take-Two Interactive. Over the course of his 22-minute presentation showing off the latest 2K Games and 2K Sports titles, the executive was asked point-blank by an analyst about the status of GTA. British site Gamesindustry.biz pulled some quotes from Zelnick's response, and said he "refused to narrow down a release period" for the game. That report was then picked by the online edition of UK game trade MCV, which trumpeted the fact Zelnick "won't commit to any date or time period" for GTA IV. Since many US sites pounce on anything coming out of Europe, the news soon mutated into various reports, blog entries, and forum posts implying GTA IV might not make its Q2 release.

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The official story: While several outlets, including Gamesindustry.biz, accurately quoted part of Zelnick's response, none reprinted the question he was asked. And, as can be heard on the BMO Capital Markets Webcast archive of the event, the analyst is clearly referring to a firm release date like GTA IV's previously announced October 16 release. The exchange--taken verbatim from the recording--is below in its entirety:

Analyst: "You guys have talked about Grand Theft Auto IV being February 1 to April 30. Obviously, there's been rumors that it could be later and then, recently, the gaming communities have said that it could be earlier. Just help us understand when we should expect a firm date on when that release could be…" (Emphasis added.)

Zelnick: "It's a fair question, I think, given that we weren't obviously able to stick our firm date the last time. We're gonna give the firm date when we're utterly convinced we have it. And that isn't right now. You know, we do feel that the way the title is being developed so that it's going to be fantastic, we know it's highly anticipated. I think there was a concern, initially, when we slipped, that we sort of missed the boat in terms of Christmas, and I think that concern has been alleviated. I think most people are, even though, obviously, it wasn't the intent, are saying, 'Hey, that's OK. You know, the hardware penetration is going to grow over Christmas, and this is gonna be a must-have title, it's probably ok you're not selling it during the Christmas season.' So I think right now, our view is to put out a really high quality title. Obviously, we're not in the business of disappointing investors and we're certainly in the business of doing what we say we're going to do, so we'll give a firm release date when we know we can stick to it." (Emphasis added.)

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Zelnick specifically said Grand Theft Auto IV's current Q2 2008 release window is no longer valid or in jepoardy. Not bogus that he is understandably hesitant to lock down a release date on the massively important game until Rockstar is 100 pecent sure of it.

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