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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Avatar image for alex33x

Oh really? Tell that to activision and EA and all the braindead people buying the same re-skinned version of their 10 year shooter.

Avatar image for StickFigures720

Oh really? I thought that game development takes time.

Avatar image for Keitha313

No you just release the same one every year, that's perfectly fine though isn't it Rockstar?

I mean we totally needed GTA 5 3 times, PS3/Xbox360 - PS4/XboxOne then PC...

Avatar image for blakehall

@Keitha313: Actually comparing releases on different platforms to releasing a new game every year. So inane it hurts my brain.

Truly, these is no limit to gamers' ability to whine about everything in existence.

Avatar image for Keitha313

@blakehall: They never released each and every platform type at the same time, they clearly used it an advantageous way (pre-order price always £40-50, they offered no incentive for buyers of older platform versions) then take into consideration that the ‘new’ versions of GTA 5 for PS4/X1 weren’t anywhere near worth the wait!

Albeit they did a good job on the PC version it makes absolutely NO excuse for them releasing the game year by year for each platform.

They could have easily left it at PS3/Xbox360 and the PC and got to work on a new title think of how much time they wasted on this game and yet we still have absolutely zero new singleplayer content this is what the fans wanted again, right?

Avatar image for JimmyCos

Yeah, just think about need for speed and assassin's creed

Avatar image for blokk

I hope they bring US a Manhunt 3 next, im wish so hard that they realized that title on ps4/x1 it would be totally awsome.but i honestly think they are afrait since they got so mich heat for 1+2, wich is saß BC Booth are two of My Favoriten Rockstar games wich i still play today frrm time to time...something not many games make me do...

Avatar image for Chizaqui

I keep seeing this in my feed, linked around the internet, and had refused to click on it...
I have to wonder why an article was written on something so evident.

It's not even valid content lol

Avatar image for Orga777

That is how it is SUPPOSED to work. Someone let the rest of the morons in the AAA Industry know that their games are poorly optimized, rushed games that are overly expensive to make because they don't know what they are doing. :/

Avatar image for wearelegion5000

Thank God for that. GTA V for PC is a great port. I imagine it would have been terrible if it had been released together with the console versions. I'd rather wait longer for a polished PC version.

Avatar image for mi_hung_lo

Activision does it with COD and UbiSoft does it with Assassins Creed. What other games do you know of besides the obvious sports games that come out annually? Look at how much money Activision and UbiSoft have made collectively by this compared to what Rockstar makes on waiting 6 years for a release. These games generated more revenue than 1 single Rockstar release. If GTA 5 made them 1.5 billion, check and see what the last 5 COD's made Activision within the same time span and you'll see who the dummy is.

Avatar image for Orga777

@mi_hung_lo: The dummy would be you, dude. It isn't all about the money. It can also be about treating the franchise and customers with respect. How about we look at things a different way. Assassin's Creed has been terrible since Revelations with the soul exception of Black Flag and all the newer games are buggy and broken upon release. CoD is wearing thin and nobody takes it seriously and also hasn't been good since, well... Black OPs 2 maybe? Possibly even before that? In comparison, there hasn't been one bad GTA game, and people continually play the ONE GTA game for years compared to most people jumping ship with each annual releases. :/

Both CoD and AC are due for a crash eventually at the rate they are going. GTA will never falter.

Avatar image for Sexycyber22

@Orga777: sorry but if you think it isn't about the money the dummy would actually be you.

Avatar image for georgirobot

@Sexycyber22: well it's good that not all the companies think like this, otherwise there would be even less polished games coming out.

Avatar image for zfunk007

File this under a massive "DUH!"

Avatar image for louixiii

That makes perfect sense.

Avatar image for 3D3

Ass Creed

Avatar image for mi_hung_lo

@3D3: Did you come up with that all by yourself?

Avatar image for Altambo

You don't say....

Avatar image for G-Corleone


Avatar image for justbefahad

Finally, someone high up the food chain speaks the truth. GTA's success shows that franchises don't have to be annualized to be profitable, hopefully, more developers realize the benefit of letting a franchise rest for awhile.

Avatar image for goodgamesguy

A Manhunt 3 on current gen would be amazing! Make it happen.

Avatar image for sonofdark18

Rockstar/Take Two, Team Ico, From Software, Bethesda and CD Project Red know how to get it DONE and get it done RIGHT.

Props to them for making some damn fine games

Avatar image for murph85

Please announce a new Red Dead soon.

Avatar image for PayneKiller

Thank goodness for take 2/ Rockstar games. I can be given some time to love and appreciate their games and stories, that are actually worth the appreciation.

Call of duty outside of modern warfare title just were not sticking with me. I had no interest in picking up a new COD every year.

And assassin's creed after 2 just felt more and more saturated each year. The stories became less interesting to me and they started adding too much things to distract me from the main campaign. I buy neither of these anymore.

Avatar image for Elnath10

Agreed! That's why GTA is always so successful and the other brands like Red Dead, Midnight Club. Rockstar Games and Take Two knows how to make it right.

Avatar image for Shantmaster_K

I think there was similar article a few years ago.

Avatar image for Chaos_Dante_456

@Shantmaster_K: That one I think was from Bethesda talking about Fallout/Elder Scrolls not being annual.

Avatar image for sa18

He is speaking facts. even sports game should take their time just make a dlc for sports games to update next year players, graphics and kits. I wish all games took their time and came out the best they can be. The gaming industry can crash at any time if they dont make changes in this only crash grabbing system. i love gaming but i am at a point that i am tired of the all BS and dont buy games that often anymore, most of it crap even AAA titles. 70 dollars/euros and Microtransactions, season passes for weaker buggier games in general is killing me has a gamer.

Avatar image for e3man01

Besides Take Two, Nintendo has done the same thing. It's funny because I used to like Sonic better than Mario Bros but then Sega whored him out and the quality went WAY down. There wasn't as many SNES Mario's as Genesis Sonics, so during that period Sonic was a bit better, not even close now, not by a long shot.

Avatar image for sa18

@e3man01: what are you talking about? Nintendo does the same thing or worst! with more than a Mario or Zelda a year.

They never rest the franchise.

Avatar image for e3man01

@sa18: Nintendo DOESN'T make a 2d/3d Mario game EVERY year. They will have Mario IN other games but not platformers. And when did Nintendo last release a home Zelda not a remaster? Not this gen, so far. The 3ds gets Zeldas a lot quicker but NOT annually.

Avatar image for genjuroT

@sa18: yea, I haven't played a Zelda game since the first Wii one that came out and a Mario game since the first DS game that came out. It felt like if you played all the classics, you played all the new ones too, got boring fast.

Avatar image for packerfan7575

Yep. Quality takes time. Good studios should know that. Better to put out a good product every 3-4 years than a mediocre one every year.

Activision came up with a pretty good solution to this problem for COD though. 3 developers on 3 year cycles, each with a new release every year. Ghosts and AW were weak but BO3 renewed my interest in the franchise.

More publishers could learn from this alternating schedule for their franchises. Better quality means better sales.

Avatar image for bmorg2014

CoD isn't really the same thing... seeing how they have a different game producer make it each year, so they really do work on it longer than one year. Assassin's Creed is a good example, they quality obviously has gone far down. But this article is kind of dumb tbh... it obviously takes over a year to make a GTA game... and I personally thought that the online for GTA 5 was pretty pointless. I couldn't play it for more than 30 minutes at a time without getting bored. And doing missions with idiots that would die once and cause the mission to fail ruined multiplayer missions. Or impatient people that would make doing heists all the way through impossible. The story was good though, about all I personally can say for it.

Avatar image for nprezzo

@bmorg2014: If you're going to use that defence for CoD, then you can say the same for AC. The AC games aren't actually only in development for 1 year... Unity had been since 2011.

Avatar image for bmorg2014

@nprezzo: didn't know that, haven't followed AC much any more. Lost interest 2-3 games ago. Thanks for the info though. Guess they've just really been slacking in AC production then.

Avatar image for Heroldp813

@bmorg2014: As far as I am concerned GTA 5 is the only game that I bought awhile ago that is still in heavy rotation with my newer games so you being bored after 30 minutes makes you the minority. As for COD, someone can buy me a COD game and I still wouldn't play it. The game is very one dimensional. GTA on the other hand is like playing several different games.

Avatar image for PayneKiller

@bmorg2014: we'll speak for yourself.. I and many others have been enjoying the hell out of GTA online because it plays so similarly to offline. And I had enough friends and family that would play the missions thru properly and we got all the heists done no problem. But to each their own

Avatar image for G4mBi7

I love how this is calling out Ubi, EA and Activision :D

Regret buying Syndicate, regret buying NFS, returned Battlefront before i even opened it. Those 3 studio's are off my purchase list until their games hit rock bottom prices :D

Avatar image for anevilwithin

@G4mBi7: I don't know how you can suggest this about Battlefront. We haven't seen a Battlefront since 2005. The only "bad" thing about the game is insane DLC price, but other than that, it's still a very-well polished game.

Avatar image for G4mBi7

@anevilwithin: Played it at a friends. Glad i returned it! Good in short burst, otherwise i'd get bored. Simple as that. Not worth the $80 PRICE, i'd pay $40 for what they are offering.

Opinions are subjective, you might like it, i didn't think it was worth my hard earned money. Frankly I'm glad i returned it because 1 week after release, it's on sale for $50 instead of 80. haha (Black Friday Sale)

Avatar image for beantownsean

I can't even take COD or AC serious at this point, its like the fast food of gaming.

Avatar image for sethfrost

Simple algebra. Does a game franchise installment, coming out every 5 years, make the same amount or more than a game coming 5 times in the same period?

Avatar image for Kunakai

@sethfrost: Depends on the game.

Avatar image for platinumking320

That speaks for itself. Plus hype is easier to generate when people have spent time away from a franchise.

The activision/Ubi/EA way of maddenizing franchises has exhausted itself. The candy crush purchase does kinda demonstrate where peoples priorities are now.

Game development to me will always be a long term investment for a hopefully good payoff if plays well and gets the right amount of attention.

What people in entertainment should focus on, I think instead of trying to mega outdo themselves in every iteration and scope, is focus on how they distribute content and challenges in the game.

Its almost its own challenge of trying different ways to entice people with the same old mechanical, animation, plot and game devices over and over and over again. No matter what console or fancy schmancy VR set its on. Yeah you can make new ways to experience this stuff, but the same entertainment will be founded on the same old tricks and elements.

Avatar image for vickissv2

It can also lead to back problems from carrying all that money to the bank....

Avatar image for ibonedyourmom

He might as well have just said "cuz Assassin's Creed."

Avatar image for flaw600

@ibonedyourmom: He basically did :P