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Take-Two: ‘Recurrent consumer spending’ is the way of the future

I.e. microtransactions

GTA V release date Rockstar Games
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Get used to these words, particularly if you’re playing 2K Games or Rockstar titles: “Recurrent consumer spending.”

Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick brought them up in a call to investors yesterday. It’s a roundabout way of saying “microtransactions” and Take-Two, the parent company of 2K Games, 2K Sports and Rockstar Games, is prioritizing development that integrates them into the overall game.

That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Grand Theft Auto Online and NBA 2K18’s MyPlayer have mined mountains of cash for Take-Two for the past four or five years. Zelnick yesterday boasted that they account for 42 percent of the company’s revenue over the most recent quarter.

“We've said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won't always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board," Zelnick said (via Gamasutra).

It comes at a time of much handwringing over the fate of story-driven, single-player games. Last month, Electronic Arts pulled the plug on an ambitious Star Wars project written by Amy Hennig, formerly the writer on the Uncharted series.

Yet since then, games with very robust single-player modes have launched — Wolfenstein 2, Assassins Creed Origins and Super Mario Galaxy on the same date. Call of Duty: WWII has also launched, bringing with the customary single-player campaign along with a multiplayer suite that involves premium downloadable content. Of course, the difference is that the publishers of those games all own those properties — they’re not paying licensing fees to anyone to use them.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming next; its single-player campaign is estimated to be eight hours long at the most. Following a public beta, and outcry over Battlefront’s loot crate system, Electronic Arts modified how items are unlocked and awarded.

Under Zelnick, Take-Two’s chief executive for the past 10 years, Take-Two games have been very disciplined in following his vision. The publisher has largely eschewed licensed titles, except for a cash machine like NBA 2K, and WWE 2K, which it picked up in the THQ fire sale back in 2013. It’s since focused on properties that it owns or are owned by its studios.

It appears that the GTA Online/MyCareer model is going to be the standard for big Take-Two Games going forward. People have expected a GTA Online type environment for Red Dead Redemption 2, which launches next year, though Rockstar has not announced what its online features will be.

"One of the things we've learned is if we create a robust opportunity, and a robust world, in which people can play delightfully in a bigger and bigger way, that they will keep coming back,” Zelnick told investors. “They will engage. And there is an opportunity to monetize that engagement."

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