Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two Interactive, was on-hand during yesterday’s Cowen and Company Technology, Media and Telecom Conference to discuss the state of the gaming industry. Among other points, he offered his thoughts about the future of his company, as well as the industry in general. The range of topics he discussed varied from how to successfully make peace with the used game market, to the future of gaming on tablets and smartphones, before finally opening up about Take-Two’s decision to delve into the crowded MMO market.
On the subject of used games, Zelnick envisions a world where both console makers and third-party publishes both receive a cut of the resale revenue. In his own words, as reported by Polygon, “there’s no question that if Microsoft has figured out a way to ‘tax’ used games, then we should get paid too. It would be hard to imagine why they should and we shouldn’t.” A fair point, as the whole argument against used games from the very beginning has been that developers and their publishers don’t see a dime whenever GameStop, or a similar retail establishment, sell a recently-released game used for $54.99 as opposed to a brand new price tag of $59.99.
For Zelnick, though, it’s not all about taking away money from retailers or burdening the consumer by forcing them to make up the difference. The methodology for Take-Two instead focuses on rewarding the consumer for buying games new. I’ve discussed before how the best way for publishers to combat used game sales is to incentivize new game purchases, and it seems Take-Two is, well, taking that very approach. ” Our view about used games has been: As opposed to whining or figuring out ways to punish the consumer for buying used games, we figured out we’d better delight the consumer,” Zelnick said. “Let’s push up our quality, which you’ve seen in our Metacritic score[s], and let’s make sure to give people DLC — often for free — three or four weeks out, which is the time you’re at risk for trading in their games.” With such a consumer-friendly mindset, one can only hope Take-Two can help usher in a new standard of practice.
Switching gears, Zelnick also discussed the future of portable gaming; a future that, in his eyes, includes tablets powerful enough to rival even the mighty PC master race. Laying out Take-Two’s stance on mobile gaming, Zelnick explained that, “we continue to believe that video games will be more and more important to consumers on mobile platforms, especially tablets. We think tablets are going to be as good as PCs. We think they’re a great entertainment device already. They’re not quite there from a processing power POV, but they will get there.”
If things turn out the way Take-Two is hoping, it will set a new standard for mobile releases; one that includes same-day, simultaneous platform launches. “As tablets gets smarter and more robust, we figure we’ll have day-and-date releases on tablets in the same way that we do on PC. That also mitigates any risk related to the launch of the next hardware generation.” To be clear, Zelnick is not directly implying tablets will ever be on par with high-tier gaming PCs. What he is actually saying is that, as mobile technology improves, it’s going to get a whole lot easier to bring a more authentic console/PC gaming experience to the mobile space. He believes there will come a time when tablets will be able to handle comparable experiences to their console counterparts.
As a final point, Zelnick talked about Take-Two’s approach to entering the MMO space. If you haven’t heard about any of the team’s MMO projects, including NBA2K Online and Civilization Online, don’t worry, you haven’t lost your touch. Take-Two isn’t planning on launching any of their MMO titles stateside. In fact, the company has focused their entire efforts in the singular, though large, region of Asia. Originally reported by GameSpot, Zelnick explains that the reason behind the decision to exclude the North American region is, “because MMOs don’t work here.”
“We look at it and say ‘How many MMOs have ever been successful in the US?’ Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. That’s kind of a bad slugging percentage,” he said. Further elaborating the studio’s plans, Zelnick explains that, “we’ve stayed away from that market and instead we went to Asia where at any given time ten or twenty are successful in China generating lots of revenue. And we figured, we don’t really know China very well, so we partnered with the best company in China: Tencent,” he continued. “They taught us the business, we taught them something about sports game development and we’ve launched NBA 2K Online with virtually no economic risk and a straight shot to the upside.”
Zelnick brought up a lot of interesting points at the conference, and if nothing else, he’s proved that Take-Two is a company to watch as we move forward into the next generation. Take-Two’s combination of level-headed executive decision-making and consumer-friendly business models should prove both successful and well-received by the community at large. It will be interesting to see how they follow through from here.
How do you folks feel about Zelnick’s comments? Agree? Disagree? Strongly disagree? (Cough, PC enthusiasts, cough.) Share your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+.