Take-Two boss squashes GTAIV delay rumors

Chairman Strauss Zelnick directly addresses reports stemming from his address to a business summit earlier this week, says industry sales shouldn't be so holiday-centric.

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For this week, no news is good news for gamers eagerly anticipating Grand Theft Auto IV. On Tuesday, Take-Two Interactive chairman Strauss Zelnick spoke at the 2007 BMO Capital Markets Interactive Entertainment Summit in New York City. When asked about the release date of Grand Theft Auto IV, Zelnick offered a status quo answer that was reported and rereported on industry trade sites until the executive was inaccurately characterized as backing down from the previously announced release window for the game.

Zelnick today spoke with GameSpot to set the record straight and squash the rumor once and for all.

"I wasn't intending to be newsworthy," Zelnick said of his response at the summit. "When asked about the release date, I confirmed the previous release date we'd given, which is our second fiscal quarter. That's to say sometime between the beginning of February and the end of April."

Some analysts have speculated that the reason for Grand Theft Auto IV's delay from its original October 16 release date was that Take-Two wanted to hold on to the game until the PlayStation 3's installed user base had overcome the system's slow start and had time to grow significantly.

Zelnick nixed that idea, but did concede that the larger installed base, by the time the game does ship, will help eliminate what negative impact on sales the delay out of the holiday season could have had. He addressed the current industry focus on the end of the year, and what it means for the industry to have so many high-profile games slipping into early next year.

"I think the intense focus on the Christmas selling season for the video game business is a holdover from its origins as an adjunct to the toy business," Zelnick said. "While other entertainment businesses also have strong selling seasons around Christmas, it's also true that you can sell music and encourage people to watch movies through the rest of the year. And I think the same ought to hold true of the interactive entertainment business as it matures. That said, I don't necessarily believe the change in these release dates affects that, but if the side effect of these release dates is that consumers say, 'This is great. I can buy terrific games year-round,' then obviously that would be a good thing for the industry and not just Take-Two."

As for when gamers can expect Take-Two to nail down a firm date for Grand Theft Auto IV, Zelnick is taking a cue from his Rockstar Games employees with a simple answer amounting to "when it's ready."

"Obviously we want to make sure not to disappoint anyone, and we're going to give that date as soon as we feel very comfortable that we know the exact date within that three-month period that we outlined," Zelnick said.

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