Take-Two 'grossly underestimated' by gamers, retailers - Analyst

EEDAR's Jesse Divnich touts maturation of publisher, saying 2K Games plays unheralded Scottie Pippen to Rockstar's Michael Jordan.

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Hits like BioShock and Carnival Games are helping Take-Two Interactive grow beyond perceptions that the company is entirely dependent on Rockstar Games' hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series, but Electronic Entertainment Design and Research's Jesse Divnich said industry-watchers are figuratively selling the publisher short.

Divnich thinks Borderlands has all the qualities of a sleeper hit. Like people on fire.
Divnich thinks Borderlands has all the qualities of a sleeper hit. Like people on fire.

Divnich issued an analyst's note today saying that Take-Two's money-making potential over the next two years "is currently being grossly underestimated by gamers, retailers, and industry professionals."

"With the success of BioShock (over 3 million units sold, worldwide), Carnival Games (over 4 million sold, worldwide), their 2K Sports titles, and the pending release of titles such as Agent, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption, BioShock 2, Mafia II, and Max Payne 3, Take-Two will be no more a 'one title publisher' than Activision is with Call of Duty and Guitar Hero franchises, or Electronic Arts is with Madden," Divnich said.

The analyst paid particular kudos to 2K Games, which was formed in January of 2005 and has since published more than 250 games for Take-Two. Divnich likened the 2K Games label's impact on Take-Two to Scottie Pippen's contribution to the Chicago Bulls championship teams of the 1990s. While Rockstar plays the superstar role of Michael Jordan, Divnich said 2K is "often ignored and underrated, but crucial to the team's success."

Divnich wasn't entirely positive about the publisher. He did note the ongoing difficulties of 2K Sports in the face of rising licensing fees and development costs, but he said it would be possible for it to achieve profitability for the first time "by the end of 2010 or 2011." He also acknowledged a rare misstep by Rockstar with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS. But even there, he at least found evidence of the publisher's relevance.

"The release of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars took permission away from any developer ever hoping to create a successful big-budget mature action title on the Nintendo DS," Divnich wrote. "The failure of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars...to deliver significant sales immediately caused a ripple effect throughout the industry causing many other mature DS titles to halt development. That is power and influence in its rawest."

In the near term, Divnich pointed to Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City--a stand-alone retail collection of GTAIV's two add-ons for the Xbox 360--as a pair of titles that could exceed expectations this year.

"Currently, most market surveys put Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City just outside the top 10 for purchase intent, with Borderlands not even breaking the top 20," Divnich said. "For these reasons, Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City are strong contenders to be sleeper hits for the year. ... Borderlands could very well surprise the market and consumers as did BioShock did in 2007."

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