This Is Why Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Don't Come Out Every Year

Annualization can lead to detriments like reduction in quality and franchise fatigue, Take-Two exec says.


Publisher Take-Two is somewhat unique in that many of its biggest non-sports franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne, are not released on an annual basis. By comparison, Activision releases a new Call of Duty every year, while Ubisoft puts out a new Assassin's Creed every fall.

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Now, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has shared some insight into the company's approach. Speaking today at the MKM Partners Investor Day in New York City, Zelnick said annualization can lead to the erosion in the value of a given brand.

"The market asks us, 'Why don't you annualize your titles?' We think with the non-sports titles, we are better served to create anticipation and demand," he explained. "On the one hand to rest the title and on the other hand to have the highest quality in the market, which takes time. You can't do that annually."

Although Take-Two has no plans to release its tentpole franchises every year (outside of sports games like NBA 2K and WWE 2K), Zelnick said the company can still generate the kind of revenue that annualization would provide through other means.

"What we would like to do is be able to have enough hit intellectual properties in any given year, whether we have Title A or Title B, is not the issue," he said. "We'll have a handful of really great franchises and new intellectual properties that together really have the economic impact of an annualized business without the detriments of an annualized business."

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Zelnick explained that those detriments could be things like "burning off your intellectual property" or reducing quality, something he doesn't want to see happen.

Also during the presentation, Zelnick said you can expect a more regular rotation of releases from Take-Two's key franchises going forward. He pointed out that the BioShock and Borderlands franchises, developed and published under the 2K Games label, are already on this path. However, titles from the Rockstar Games division, including Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne, are unlikely to follow any kind of set schedule, as these games have longer development cycles, Zelnick said.

In addition, the executive said Rockstar's titles will be spaced out as part of an effort to ensure that when they are indeed released, they become "massive consumer events."

No new Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption games have been announced, but Zelnick referred to them today, and in previous presentations, as "permanent" franchises.

Also during today's presentation, Zelnick teased BioShock creator Ken Levine's next game and stressed that the BioShock series is "unquestionably" important to the company.

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