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MMOs don't work in the US, says Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick

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Don't expect to see a massively multiplayer online game based on Grand Theft Auto, BioShock or Borderlands anytime soon. At least not in North America, according to Take-Two Interactive chairman Strauss Zelnick, who argues that the genre just doesn't work stateside.

"We're actively investing in online and MMOs, we're just not doing it in the U.S." Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media and Telecom Conference today. "MMOs don't work here. A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons. One of our competitors just recently announced they're restarting an MMO project."

To support his argument, Zelnick asked, "How many MMOs have been successful in the U.S.? Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. Kind of a bad slugging percentage."

Take-Two is investing in online games in Asian markets he said, where "at any given time 10 to 20 are successful in China and generating revenue." Through partnerships with Tencent, XL Games and Nexon, companies who understand the Asian MMO market better, Zelnick said, Take-Two has co-developed games like NBA 2K Online, Civilization Online and Pro Baseball 2K.

Earlier this week, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment said it was making "some large design and technology changes" to its in-development next-generation MMO, codenamed Titan. Over the past year, MMO titles like Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift, TERA and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes shift from a paid subscription model to free-to-play models. Two high profile MMO releases are planned for later this year, Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls Online and Square Enix's revamped Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn.