Take-Two Exec Talks Importance of Review Scores, Evolve Sales Potential, More

Review scores can have "meaningful influence on sales," Strauss Zelnick says; Evolve's innovative 4v1 gameplay resonating strongly with players.

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With the release of Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock's upcoming monster-hunting game Evolve now less than a week away, parent publisher Take-Two Interactive has come out to say signs are pointing to a successful launch for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC game.

The game's Xbox One beta last month attracted "hundreds of thousands" of players, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said in an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer. Overall, Evolve "seems to be very well-received," Zelnick said.

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He further praised Evolve's innovative gameplay. The fact that you can play as one of a team of four Hunters or the Monster will separate Evolve from the pack, he said.

"We think that's really exciting, and we think consumers agree," Zelnick said, cautioning, however that this "remains to be seen."

Still, Zelnick maintains that Evolve is on-track for a successful release next week.

"It is lining up well," he said. "Usually, this close to release you begin to get a sense. Obviously, we see how preorders are coming in; it looks very positive."

Unlike Take-Two's other tentpole franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto, Borderlands, NBA 2K, and Civilization, Evolve is a brand-new series, whose commercial viability remains unproven. Take-Two bought Evolve for $10.8 million during THQ's bankruptcy auction in 2013.

Evolve's controversial extensive DLC program has been a major talking point around the game of late, with some users claiming Turtle Rock has gone too far to "leech" money out of players. However, Zelnick doesn't quite see it this way, saying earlier this week that, "We're delivering a fantastic title that's well worth what consumers will pay for it."

Also in the interview, Zelnick said it will be important for Evolve to receive positive review scores. While movie-goers may flock to a middle-of-the-road comedy, gamers won't latch on to a game in a meaningful way if it doesn't get good reviews, he said.

"Our consumers watch those scores; they watch reviews, they care about awards. They care about quality" -- Zelnick

Awards (Evolve won Game of Show awards for E3 and Gamescom last year) and review scores have a "meaningful influence on sales," Zelnick said.

"It's very different, for example, than the motion picture business. You might win the Palme d'Or, for example, and it might not affect the box office at all," he added. "You might actually get bad reviews, and if it's a crowd-pleasing comedy, people will still go. But if you get a bad Metacritic score, you're going to have a very hard time with your video game. If you get a great score--for example, the Metacritic score on GTA V for next-gen is 97--that correlates highly with the sales."

"Our consumers watch those scores; they watch the reviews, they care about awards. They care about quality."

Finally, in discussing his company's entire portfolio, Zelnick said all Take-Two franchises still have room to grow from a commercial perspective.

"We're really proud of the intellectual property that we have," he said. "The company owns it all. Much of it is still yet to be meaningfully exploited. The other thing is the way we exploit it. We try to build permanent franchises."

This matches up with what Zelnick said last year, when he explained that the BioShock series, though it has already sold millions of copies, has not yet reached its commercial potential.

Disclosure: Metacritic is a division of CBS Interactive, the parent company of GameSpot.

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