I’ve been touched by some of the response to the Shooting Straight post that I wrote a few weeks ago.
I wrote it in reaction to the spate of layoffs that we’d seen from IGN at the time, and the layoffs really shook me because that could have been me out there had I found the courage to trust in my talents and go for a paying job in the gaming press. I don’t know how I would’ve handled being suddenly let go, having to scramble to salvage my future, and wondering where to go from there. I think that volatility is something that I’ve always been nervous about. Careers in this business are risky and fleeting as models change. Magazines have been replaced by websites, and paid professionals are now battling against plucky unpaid upstarts for page views and fans.
Had I made the decision to “go pro” at the peak of my writing journey, I probably would’ve done so as a reviewer… and I think that I would have failed in the endeavor. While I enjoy writing reviews very much, I am aware that my review-writing format is very systematic. If you know me, you know what you’re going to get, most likely. Lots of folks hate by-the-numbers reviews, but that’s the way I’ve always written. I’ve become comfortable with that. I’m not sure that I ever really wanted or thought about embracing the challenge of changing things up. The awesome team over at Game Critics (Thank you to Brad, Chi, and Dale!) tried very hard to shake me from that mold when I contributed reviews for them in 2002, but it never stuck. I honestly don’t know that I’m more than an average reviewer with a slightly above-average vocabulary and decades of gaming experience to draw on as my assets… but I enjoy doing it when opportunities arise.
My best role would’ve probably been an an analyst, which really requires far more education than I have. I’ve learned a great deal as an observer over the last five years, and I learn more every day. My approach is also a bit different in an analyst role than it is for the folks that inspired me to focus on sales and trends in the first place, like Michael Pachter, Jesse Divnich, Colin Sebastian, Doug Creutz, and others. I try to break down the data for peers, for other video game players, to help them understand the numbers that are out there. I don’t really write for investors or for financial perspective. Matt Matthews over at Gamasutra is probably the person I’d most likely have emulated had I turned professional, but I don’t know that there’s really a market for that in order to make a living.
What I see out there in social media and around gaming press circles is a lot of talent. There are many hard-working writers, community managers, and people in other important roles who are trying to make their mark. It’s really cool to see, honestly. There’s a great support system out there for those who aspire to be professionals. It’s never been easier to get your work published, thanks to a proliferation of smaller independent sites dotting the World Wide Web. Established professionals and freelancers have given advice and support to these up-and-comers, as well. Publishers and PR firms try their best to give as much access as they can to as many who legitimately ask for it. They’ve done this for me, and I will always be grateful for that support and encouragement.
When I said that I was– that I still am– a coward for not having chased my dream, I admit that I have some regrets. It’s sad when you don’t or can’t believe in yourself enough to take that one leap of faith and trust that you’ll land without (too many) broken bones. On the other hand, I’m also very fortunate to still be able to write about video games at the age of nearly 41. I have a couple of platforms that publish my work, and I understand that a few people have even read the thousands of words that I have written. That still motivates me and humbles me at the same time. I may not be the huge success that I wanted to be in my head, but I still have a body of work that I’m very proud of and a wider group of people who take some interest in what I have to say (from time to time, anyway).
I think that I at least partially meet the criteria for being a “success”, even if my writing never equates to being a “real job”. It’s acceptable success, and if that’s the legacy that I leave behind… I can hold my head high.
I know that it’s been awhile since I last posted here, but that’s been due to several factors. School has been pretty tough this semester, and adapting to a three-day school schedule as opposed to two has really interrupted my free time flow. My energy levels have been down, and I’d just been spinning my creative wheels up until very recently.
I’m happy to say that my writing roles outside of Consoleation have begun to increase, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what’s been happening:
For starters, I’m still active on staff with Popzara Press. Aside from monthly sales analysis pieces that I continue to try and piece together from what data I can find, I’m also still writing some reviews for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles. I got a chance to put Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 through its paces for the PlayStation 3 last month, and I just recently got to cover the initial suite of Star Wars Pinball tables on the PlayStation 3 as well. I’m currently working my way through Tomb Raider, and I’m hoping to get to cover Bioshock Infinite for Popzara later this month.
In addition, I’ve been asked to cover Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 for GamersHell as a contributor and should be seeing the game soon. It was a pleasant surprise to have the offer extended by Chris, the Managing Editor, and I was happy to accept given my enjoyment of the Tiger Woods series and of sports games in general. The door is open to more contribution opportunities if the initial piece goes well, so I’m looking forward to this opportunity.
Finally, I’m happy to announce that Pinball Alley has a new home: 1 More Castle.
If you haven’t visited this great site, which is dedicated to older video games and platforms, I can’t recommend it enough. I’m honored and privileged to be a part of a talented group of staff and contributors, and I want to thank Eric for reaching out to me and working with me to get this idea realized. As the above video explains, Pinball Alley is a six-part, bi-weekly series of articles that breaks down each of the pinball games for the NES. The first article in the series will be going up on March 12th and will be a breakdown of Nintendo’s Pinball. I’m both nervous and excited to have the piece go live and to see what readers think of it. I haven’t yet decided on the order for the remaining five games, though I’m leaning towards Rollerball.
So… that’s what’s going on. I also have midterms coming this week, so things are turning very busy all around. It’s a very exciting time, and I hope that you’ll be able to take some time to check out my work in a few spots.
I’m just going to shoot straight from the hip: I’m a big ol’ coward.
I’ve been writing about video games in some capacity since 1999. I got my first reviewing “gig” in 2001. I’ve had many stops along the way since then, and I’ve probably had my fair share of opportunities to pursue my “dream job” and write about video games for a living. I’ll never forget being all excited during GamePro chats with Dan Amrich and the rest of the team back in 2000, talking about how I wanted to be a professional and having them cheer me on. I’ll never forget being on the radio every Saturday to talk about video games with friends from Fantasy Realms. I’ll never forget my first review assignment for About.com (Super Bombad Racing… YUCK). I’ll never forget my first review deadline, having to play, complete, and draft a review for SonyWeb for Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ll never forget the many times that I got close to getting to go to E3, and then finally getting that chance twice in 2011 and 2012.
I’ve been as close to being a professional as one can get without actually getting there. I never took that last big step. Why? I was scared. I remain scared, even as my 41st birthday approaches… although the “dream job” scenario has been relegated to flights of fancy now. What if I took that chance, flew out for an interview, and get turned down? Or what if, like we just saw with 1UP and GameSpy, the jobs just disappeared? What would I do? How would I survive? I could never bring myself to take that chance, to believe in myself, because I was– because I am– a coward. I’m not afraid to admit this.
It takes more than pure writing talent to do this kind of thing for a living. In fact, it takes more than pure talent to do this kind of thing consistently, whether you’re a professional or just an enthusiast. I see writers all the time dedicating themselves to wanting to be the next big thing, or wanting to take their skills to the next level, or wanting to prove that they belong to what is one of my favorite fraternities. There are too many of these people to list, and that list grows longer every day as new sites spring up or as new writers decide to jump into the fray and offer their own works and perspectives. I salute all of these people. These are the same kinds of people that motivated me to start writing in the first place, rather than just think that I could. The Amrichs, Eddys, and Reiners that first inspired me have been joined by the Workmans, Futters, Evangelhos, and a chorus of others. They are all dedicated to their craft, and they have helped and inspired others to succeed along with them.
To those who have been displaced from their writing jobs, I offer this: Although it’s of little consolation, you all did something that I never did. You all took big chances and believed in yourselves to get where you are. Your strong work ethic, talent for writing, and passion for this business still remain, and you almost certainly inspired others to follow in your footsteps– to do as you have done. You have my admiration and respect, and I wish nothing but the best for you as you move forward. I thank you for what you have done and hope that you will continue to do it.
As for the rest of you who are writing and may be shaken by recent events, I offer this: Don’t do what I did. Look to those who had the conviction to take risks and put themselves on the line because they believed. Keep writing, keep working, keep sharing. Even if that “dream job” never materializes, if you have passion and motivation, there will always be opportunities for you to share that with an audience of people always thirsting for more knowledge and different perspective. We need voices. We value opinions. We enjoy reading. Try not to let the volatile nature of the gaming press business dissuade you or bring you down.
I look back today on why I never took my shot and admit that it was my own fault. No matter what the dream is, don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself. It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.
Cinemablend ran an article recently that leveled some pretty serious charges at the gaming press. The article uses terms like “publisher-bought gaming media” and maintains that gaming press needs to come clean before games come out if they’re bad.
This article, if you haven’t read it already, is fallacious and unnecessary.
I’ve had my issues with gaming press at large in the past. I was very critical of their general reaction to those angered by Mass Effect 3 last year, with overuse of the “entitled” term and basically talking down to their readership. I’ve also been critical of the practice of review embargoes in the past, as I think that they tend to be precursors to bad games. (Note: It’s not an all-inclusive trend that embargoes and bad games are linked, but there are definite examples in this case.)
In the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, gaming press is not at fault. I don’t care how much the author of this article wants to call people out for not being forthcoming. These reviews– and reviewers– are bound by embargoes. They can’t say much, whether they like it or they hate it. It’s worth noting that reviewers tried to leave clues for consumers about the game’s quality, with many taking to Twitter urging consumers to wait for the embargo to lift before buying the game. That, in and of itself, is risky behavior. Read between the lines and you can see that reviewers were trying to tell consumers something… but there’s only so much that could be said prior to the lifting of the embargo at 4am Eastern (1am Pacific).
I deal with embargoes in some of my review opportunities. They come with the territory. Publishers and PR firms make the rules. If you don’t follow, you don’t get product early– or at all. I’m not a fan of the practice, and have questioned it, but the choice is simple to make. If embargoes aren’t followed, losing early access means not being able to supply eager readers with reviews on the day of release… and that can lead to even more wasted money for bad games or lead to not enough people being interested in games that I determine to be really good. If the author is mad about embargoes, he needed to point at the right people. Not IGN, Geoff Keighley, and others… but publishers and PR firms who set these rules to begin with.
Of course, there’s one major problem with the author doing that: He writes for the gaming arm of his own website. He’s basically a member of the gaming press calling out his peers with no provocation.
There’s a lot of blame to go around for this Aliens disaster. There were development issues between Gearbox and Timegate. The embargo period lifted too late to save eager consumers from themselves. And, yes, those eager consumers are very much part of the problem. The author of the article was smart enough not to identify that, saving himself backlash from his readership at the expense of attempting to soil the reputations of his fellow writers.
Here’s a truth bomb that you’re probably not going to want to hear: Consumers do assume a lot of blame here. There’s nothing forcing consumers to buy blindly. They’re enthusiastic. They made up their own minds based on neutral previews and impressions of unfinished materials. When you buy a game at midnight, or even on the day of launch, you assume some risk as a consumer. When you don’t rent first, you don’t (or choose not to) read reviews when they hit, and you don’t wait for reliable experience word of mouth from friends or colleagues, then you assume some risk as a consumer. If you decide that, in spite of bad reviews, you need to find out for yourself… then you assume some risk as a consumer.
I’ve done this many times in my decades as a video game consumer. I’ve bought games on launch day or even at midnight, sold on my enthusiasm, only to find that I’d wasted my money on a game that was bad or that I wound up not liking. Sure, I can try and blame reviewers or friends for not warning me, but the fault in these cases is clearly my own. I could have waited a few extra days before dropping my $60, but I gave in to enthusiasm. It’s the price we pay for early adoption. It isn’t fun sometimes, but it isn’t anyone’s fault but our own. So if the author is going to use “There’s a lot of gamers out there who wasted $60 on Colonial Marines when it wasn’t what it was advertised to be” as a point of emphasis, that’s the consumer’s problem. Or the developer’s problem. Or the publisher’s problem. It’s not the fault of the gaming press in this instance.
Deflecting blame from where it really lies is counterproductive. Sure, Cinemablend will get plenty of traffic from this attack piece, but it also serves to damage the website’s credibility and at the same time demonstrates a very odd agenda on the part of the author.
I decided to have a little bit of fun with my projections for the fourth quarter of this year.
Some colleagues have told me that my numbers are generally too high, with their projections being down as much as 50% YOY in some cases (read: Xbox 360). I’m not sure that I buy into the gloom scenario just yet. There’s talk of a decent bundle from Microsoft for the holidays, plus the company is in prime position to surprise with a price cut if it so chooses. Obviously another year like last year with over 3.8 million Xbox 360 units being sold is not in the cards… but below 2 million? With Halo 4 and Black Ops 2? I can’t pull the trigger on such low numbers. Not yet.
One thing to definitely keep an eye on will be WiiU allocations. My gut tells me that Nintendo is looking to ship between 600,000 and 700,000 units in November and in December, probably leaning towards the lower end of that range. I do think that my projection of 1.1 million units makes sense. It could be a bit more than that, but realistically not as high as the 1.5 million I was thinking about earlier this month. I do think that tight supply could potentially lead to hazardous situations at retail, with increased risk for robberies both in-store and in parking lots. Resale prices for WiiU could be huge if supply is super-tight, so they’re perfect targets for criminals.
Lastly, I know that I’ve come down hard on the PlayStation 3. It’s not that I don’t like (or want to like) the platform, because I do. I own one, I use it considerably more than my Xbox 360, and I think that PlayStation Plus is a fantastic program. Unfortunately, while I understand the pricing strategy for PlayStation 3 in Q4, I think that it’s a wasted opportunity to build penetration even at this very late stage of the console generation. $200 would have great. An even lower price would have been better. Neither of those things happened, and there simply isn’t a major selling point for the PlayStation 3 this season. The WiiU will be the main attraction as the new hardware platform and will be difficult to find. The Xbox 360 will almost certainly be the best-selling platform this season with a strong software lineup and continued brand recognition. The PlayStation 3 has neither of these advantages, and unimpressive sales will be the result instead of a resurgence during the busiest period of the year.
I hope that you’ll check out the piece. Feel free to tell me what you think, either here or via the comments section over at Popzara.
Look for more new content here next week, too.
Between SEGA Europe‘s painful restructuring and Activision‘s dismantling of Radical Entertainment, this week has been another one of those weeks that we’d rather forget. It’s always unfortunate when people lose their jobs, and downsizing doesn’t often instill confidence that the affected industry is moving in the right direction. These moves are a continuation of the state of correction that the video game industry is in– especially in the console sector. The market is shrinking, and not enough money is being made to keep moves like these from occurring.
I know that when I remark that events like these aren’t surprising or that the market is shrinking, many people react quickly and negatively to my observations. “Stop with the doom and gloom” or “Things aren’t as bad as you claim” are popular responses. I don’t make these observations to earn praise, and I know that very few gaming fans like hearing these things. I’m simply calling things as I see them, and there isn’t a whole lot of good news out there to talk about.
The console sector has had an amazing run, especially since the PlayStation era began. The consumer base had steadily grown before the Wii took the market by storm and sold tons. A lot of studios saw success and expanded before we saw the opposite begin to happen during this console generation. These runs of success don’t last forever, and consumers are finding other entertainment options. Consoles are no longer the undisputed gaming platforms. Consumers are splintering into other areas, like PC, mobile, and social methods of gaming. Most consumers who wanted consoles have them now, as it’s been 6-7 years since the current generation of consoles was introduced… and at least some of those consumers are moving on. Perhaps it’s partially because of stagnation due to an anomalously long console cycle. Maybe the economy forced a change in spending priorities as consumers got older. It’s possible that the time isn’t there anymore for some consumers to play video games like they once did.
The correction in the console market feels much more painful because it’s coming down off of a huge period of sales. Nearly 40 million Wii units have sold since November of 2006 in the United States alone. Another 55 million combined Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 units have sold over the course of this console generation. That’s an awful lot of hardware. It was a boom period for the first half of the console generation before things began to recede… and now, we’re seeing sales decline to levels similar to 2004-05 when the previous generation was running out of steam. Perhaps we see a significant resurgence in sales when Gen4 really gets going sometime in the next 12-18 months, but there’s no guarantee.
I’m not going to come out and say that the console sector is dying. I know that might be your gut reaction to what you’re reading, but it’s not my point. I firmly believe that there is a solid nucleus of consumers in place to support Gen4 and that at least some profits are out there for the taking. I don’t expect console sales to fall off a cliff in Gen4, but I also think that it’s unreasonable to assume that another 100 million consoles will sell in the US when we tabulate Gen4 data in another 7 years. Unfortunately, since the bar is set so high, there’s going to be disappointment from investors and analysts when consoles don’t set records for another generation. There’s the possibility that investors pull back and, with the focus being on “AAAA blockbusters”, more studios and companies could face restructuring and/or closure over the next couple of years. A shrinking market– and declining sales– can’t support projections of 5 million units sold as a success. Not anymore.
I understand that many of you want to hold onto the idea that Gen4 hardware will reinvigorate the market and that trends will turn around. Several industry people that I have great respect for have cited this reasoning repeatedly. I believe that is a possibility and could very well happen; however, I personally am not convinced that the solution to ending this correction period is that simple. Many different variables come into play. How much will Gen4 hardware be? Will software prices rise again to offset expected rises in development costs? How will digital distribution expand? Will the economy find a foothold and begin to rise with confidence, or will a double-dip recession occur at the worst possible time for the console sector? As these puzzle pieces fall into place, I’ll feel more confident in my own outlook or may start shifting my line of thinking in a different direction.
For right now, based on the data and trends that are available, I see no reason to change my thought process. More studio closures are possible to likely in the next 12 months, and I expect YOY sales comparisons to remain moderately negative for the balance of 2012.
Hey there, everyone!
After a long and very busy week in Los Angeles, I’m in the midst of working on E3 content for Popzara Press. I have some things to share here with you as well, and will do that this coming week. It was all quite an adventure. I met some incredible people, saw some great games, and was able to apply a lot of what I saw towards my analysis of where I expect console sector sales to trend for the balance of 2012.
A couple of pieces are already up on Popzara for you to look at, covering my hands-on experiences with Double Dragon: NEON and NBA Baller Beats. Feel free to leave comments or questions on either article, or you can do so here. I loved Double Dragon: NEON, which builds on the arcade experience and revisits some of the coolest moments from other games in the series. As for NBA Baller Beats, although my basketball skills need serious work, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had playing it.
Expect more content to go up as soon as today, including hands-on pieces for Dead or Alive 5 and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed. I also have some insight into two of the biggest games for this holiday season in Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Skylanders Giants, plus more brief looks at games including The Amazing Spider-Man, The Last Story, and Way of the Samurai 4. That’s not all, either. I still have a considerable amount of writing to do in the next day or so, including hands-on impressions of Borderlands 2, Zen Pinball 2 and the Avengers Chronicles tables, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
This week is also NPD sales data week, as May’s numbers will be released on Thursday. That means that I have another busy week ahead of me.
For the next week or so, I’ll be doing a lot of sharing of articles and content here… but we’ll be getting back to more original content once the E3 crunch eases and I have a bit more free time. I’m also taking a trip back to Stateline Video Games today, where I’ll be working on some details for some community management and social media integration… as well as sharing some of my thoughts on E3 with Frank. It’ll be a fun decompression afternoon after the rigors of the last few days.
I’ve had difficulty believing that I’m a decent writer.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not used to compliments. I’m not sure how to accept them sometimes. I’m always grateful that someone would take the time to tell me that they enjoyed what I wrote, or to even remotely compare me to others whom I hold in high regard personally. I’ve been mentioned in the same discussion as Michael Pachter a few times. I’ve been told by other writers or analysts whom I respect and admire that they’ve taken time out of their busy schedules to read pieces that I’ve written. These things are the ultimate compliments to me, and I value them very much.
I think I’m realizing now, with a website taking a chance on me and sending me to E3 this year, that I’ve failed to recognize what these people have been trying to tell me. I feel weird admitting that maybe I am as good as some have said, or that I do have the talent needed to possibly make something of myself in a role that I was all but ready to give up on not too long ago. I guess that I’ve always believed that keeping compliments at bay kept me grounded as a person. Not totally buying into compliments made me work harder and made me become a better writer.
I think, to quote a popular internet meme, that I’ve been “doing it wrong.”
This trip, as unexpected as it is, has everything to do with Popzara Press– and I’m very grateful for the hoops that Nathan and Chris have jumped through to get me to Los Angeles– but it may also have something to do with the idea that I might have earned this kind of trust and opportunity. This is, perhaps, what other colleagues and writers have been trying to tell me for a long time. It’s time to believe that I might be good enough to be an accomplished writer or analyst.
It’s time, to put it bluntly, to believe in myself.
I have a chance now to set things in motion for the future. I have a chance to start building my own network of contacts and take some initiative instead of relying on others. I have a chance to show that I can work under pressure. I have a chance to generate my own unique content. These are things that I’ve been told publicly and in confidence that I can do, but I never genuinely believed it until just recently.
In the past month, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been sourced as an analyst. I’ve participated in my first podcast. I’ve had eight Armchair Analysis pieces published. I’ve covered five earnings calls. That’s all in addition to securing my spot in college for the fall. It’s all because I finally stopped just listening and added belief to that action… and this has been perhaps the most important transition of my life so far.
So, to all of you who have ever taken the time to compliment me in my life, my writing, or anything else… It’s my turn to not only thank you for those compliments, but also to prove you right.
Earlier this week, I was given an opportunity to be a guest on The SideQuest, a regular podcast delivered by the great people over at SideQuesting. I’d never been a part of a podcast before, so this was a new experience for me. While I’ve been writing about video games for a long time, I haven’t talked about them at length since my time with The Game Guys– a weekly radio show about video games– back in 2000.
It was a lot of fun talking with Dali, Steve, and Mike for what wound up running over three hours. We covered a lot of ground, including some discussion about game delays, Take-Two, Grand Theft Auto V, 38 Studios, and a bit of what we expect from Sony at E3. Having an agenda made the show easy for me to follow as we recorded, and it’s great having the chance to talk with others who also so interested in the industry. I hope to do some more guest spots down the line. I do have one show appearance lined up in a few weeks with Rich Grisham, who I chatted with earlier this month about some interesting E3 and sports game topics. We’ll see whether anything develops during my E3 trip in Los Angeles.
Speaking of E3…
Thanks to Nathan and Chris at Popzara Press, my travel plans for the big show have been locked in. It’s going to be a hectic start– as I’m arriving at LAX just hours before E3 begins– but a relaxed finish as I’m going to be in Los Angeles for an extra day (I’m leaving Friday night). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover E3 for Popzara this year, as I wouldn’t have been able to afford travel and accommodations myself. I’m looking forward to what’s going to be a mixture of appointments and show floor exploration. Unlike last year, I have connecting flights and layovers this time… so my “baptism by fire” for travel will be interesting. My itinerary for E3 will be locked in next week, so I’m excited to get it and start preparing.
This will be just my fourth plane trip. I went to Florida twice in the early 1980s to visit my grandparents, and then I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles last year for my first E3 trip. These flights are, obviously, much longer than a Connecticut to Florida trip or Phoenix to L.A. hop. I’m not exactly a fan of flying, either. If we were supposed to fly, we’d have wings. Instead, because I’m paranoid, I’ll be keeping an eye out for John Lithgow on the wing of my plane the whole time. If any of you have lots of flight experience, maybe you can tell me what to expect. That would be great.
The fact that I’ll only have a small amount of sleep before heading out to the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t too concerning. I’m unfortunately not attending the Nintendo Press Conference (unless I get a miraculous invite in the next 10 days, anyone?), but that takes some of the pressure off for the first day if I don’t go. The Convention Center doesn’t open until noon, so I’ll have time to get acclimated before setting out. I’ve been trying to gradually set my internal clock to West Coast time, so I’ll be ready to rock for the duration of the event.
I’m really excited. A little nervous, given that this is really my first show as a media representative, but very excited. I can’t wait to share my impressions and experiences with you.
My latest Armchair Analysis column is live over at Popzara Press, covering Take-Two’s 2012 fiscal year earnings conference call. Topics included the financial effect of game release delays and the reasons why, the likely end of Take-Two’s license partnership with Major League Baseball, and a surprisingly strong defense of consoles in light of weakening sales in that sector. I really hope that you’ll give the piece a look if time allows.
The most interesting part of the call covers what was– and what wasn’t– said regarding Grand Theft Auto V.
A press release, containing Take-Two’s highlights and financial results from the 2012 fiscal year, was issued about 20 minutes prior to the earnings call. On the earnings release, Grand Theft Auto V is listed as a TBA (To Be Announced) release. Curiously, it’s listed in the 2013 fiscal year lineup despite the unknown date. If you take the release schedule to be chronological as it’s listed, then TBA could be inferred as March of 2013. I thought that to be a bit of a stretch before the call took place, given the announcement that XCOM: Enemy Unknown would hit retail in October and thus closing the window that the BioShock Infinite delay left open.
My opinion changed during the call, when revenue projections for the 2013 fiscal year were shared. Take-Two is expecting revenues for this fiscal year to be more than double what was taken in last year, to between $1.75 billion and $1.85 billion. That’s also more than Take-Two made in the 2011 fiscal year, when Red Dead Redemption was such a big success. Take-Two CFO Lainie Goldstein also said this during the call:
Our expected revenue range assumes the on-time release of the titles we have announced to date, as well as other titles yet to be announced for release during fiscal 2013. We expect the revenue breakdown from our labels to be roughly 60% from Rockstar and 40% from 2K.
Now, if you look at the earnings projection of $1.75 billion dollars, it’s estimated that over $1.05 billion is set to come from Rockstar. Even if Max Payne 3 sells 10 million units, that’s only about 60% of the projected revenue that Rockstar is expected to bring in during this fiscal year. Something else needs to be released to close that gap.
The plot thickened further when Eric Handler from MKM Partners asked about how projected guidance could be hit without Grand Theft Auto V. Take-Two Chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick responded with this answer:
We’ve announced that Grand Theft Auto V is in full development. We haven’t announced a release date yet. What we have said about the year is that we have some titles that we expect to release that are not announced yet and we have a terrific slate coming up.
It’s a sidestep answer, as Zelnick obviously doesn’t want to tip his hand, but there is absolutely no certainty one way or another in this instance. There are two scenarios that come to mind. Either Grand Theft Auto V is the “unannounced” title or Rockstar has another project going that we don’t know much (if anything) about. What’s more, if you listen to the replay of the call (located via a link on this page) starting at the 39:53 mark, Zelnick’s tone in response to Handler’s question doesn’t lead you to believe that he’s denying anything. It didn’t sound like a denial to me, at all.
I am thinking that Grand Theft Auto V is on track for a release during this fiscal year, ending March 31, 2013. I believe that it’s possible that the game could ship during the fourth quarter of this calendar year, between October 1st and December 31st. I’d even go so far as to say that the October 23 date that Michael Pachter mentioned last month has a real shot at verifying. It makes some sense, given that it’s two weeks after another Take-Two release (XCOM: Enemy Unknown) and two weeks before November’s big guns like Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and the potential release of the WiiU. There’s some concern how sales of Assassin’s Creed III may affect Grand Theft Auto V, but given the strength of the Grand Theft Auto IP, UbiSoft could be the loser in this battle if a late October date materializes.
I’m not sure how much of a presence– if any– that Grand Theft Auto V has at E3, but news could come after the event. If after-hours trading and the spike of Take-Two stock is any indicator, then I believe that investors agree with me: Grand Theft Auto V will be here a lot sooner than many expected just a few weeks ago.