Has Grand Theft Auto Peaked?
Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter says:
“Has the Grand Theft Auto franchise peaked? Given the strength of GTA IV in 2008, the question may seem misplaced, but our concern is that the very highly rated new GTA content for Xbox as well as PSP and DS did not perform up to expectations in 2009,”
“Now, we very clearly understand that these do not represent ‘true’ new GTA titles. However, the fact is that these were compelling titles, attractively priced, and reasonably well-promoted, yet they fell relatively flat.”
Take Two just lowered it’s Q4 ’09 revenues from $350-$375 million to $325-$350 million, which is the second time they lowered revenue projections this year, are expecting an overall yearly loss, and blamed this on, among other things, weak demand for “several of its key holiday releases”, of which we can presume GTA is a large piece.
Beyond that, there is a noticeable lack of gamer interest around the 360/PSP/DS GTA releases despite very high review scores and very heavy promotion.
When I was playing PSP Chinatown Wars, part of me was admiring how good the dialog was, how unique and attractive the graphics were, and how polished everything was. But at the same time, (IMO) the game was a real bore to play. All the missions and mini-games felt like real chores… Thinking back to the magic I felt when playing GTA 3/VC/SA (and even GTA 4), I don’t think anything had broken since then, but rather that the “newness” and uniqueness had worn off.
On the other hand, I don’t underestimate Rockstar’s ability to innovate. From the previews of Red Dead Redemption, where the player can explore an authentic and stylishly recreated time period, this is my most anticipated title of 2010.
And of course, we haven’t seen much from Rockstar North’s “The Agent”, but that seems a safe bet in terms of quality, innovation, and ultimately gamer interest.
Bottom line, Rockstar’s premium development teams are no where near peaking, but their ability to spin off golden franchise formulas is definitely limited.
Take Two still projects to lose money in 2010 even with premium releases like Red Dead, Bioshock 2, Mafia 2, and Max Payne 3, which is a whole other problem; they probably need to fix or cut some of their under performing projects.