• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Take Two beats FYQ4 expectations with $1.4B in bookings up 65%, maybe hints at GTA6

Bynewsmagzines

May 17, 2023
Take Two beats FYQ4 expectations with $1.4B in bookings up 65%, maybe hints at GTA6

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Take-Two Interactive said its bookings grew 65% to $1.39 billion in the fourth fiscal quarter ended March 31 as catalog sales were stronger than expected.

And in move that will trigger speculation about the timing of Grand Theft Auto 6, the company also said that it expects a “new era” with several “groundbreaking titles that we believe will set new standards in our industry” in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2025.

For that year, Take-Two said it expects to hit more than $8 billion in net bookings and over $1 billion in adjusted unrestricted operating cash flow. By comparison, the company’s net bookings in the FY23 year just ended were $5.28 billion. Take-Two expects FY26 will be a bigger year than FY25.

What could trigger such a big year? Take-Two did not specifically say. But it’s no secret the company is working on Grand Theft Auto 6. Its predecessor Grand Theft Auto V has sold more than 180 million copies since 2013. Red Dead Redemption 2 has sold more than 53 million copies to date. The company said its goal is to be the most creative, the most innovative and the most efficient entertainment company in the world. It has about 12,000 employees now, with 9,000 of those in game development, thanks in no small part to its $12.7 billion acquisition of Zynga.

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Meanwhile, Take-Two’s outlook for the rest of the year are cautious, given the economic downturn. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024, Take-Two expects net bookings of $5.4 billion to $5.55 billion.

Back in February, Take-Two announced cutbacks of personnel, processes, infrastructure and other areas.

Take-Two Interactive chief executive Strauss Zelnick.
Take-Two Interactive chief executive Strauss Zelnick.

In after-hours trading, Take-Two’s stock is up 8.8% to $136.04 a share. It will be interesting to see if macroeconomic conditions continue to affect consumer spending.

Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company is expecting to launch 36 titles throughout fiscal years 2025 and 2026. But he wouldn’t comment on Grand Theft Auto 6, as he said the company leaves that up to labels to discuss. In that case, it would be up to Rockstar Games to make any GTA 6 announcements.

In FY25 and FY26, Take-Two plans to launch 14 immersive core titles, six of which are sports simulation games. It will also launch two mid-core games, one of which is sports focused. It will have four iterations of previously released titles, four independent titles from Private Division, two of which include previously announced partnerships with Weta Freak. And it will have 12 mobile games. This is not counting post-launch content, DLC, and season passes.

“We finished fiscal 2023 with momentum,” Zelnick said in a statement. “Our fourth quarter net bookings were $1.4 billion, above the high end of our guidance range, driven by Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Zynga’s mobile portfolio.”

Arthur Morgan is the main character of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Arthur Morgan is the main character of Red Dead Redemption 2.

He added, “We also issued guidance for Fiscal 2024, which includes Net Bookings in the range of $5.45 to $5.55 billion. Our forecast reflects the challenging consumer backdrop, as well as an extension of the development timelines for several high-profile, long-awaited titles in our pipeline. We believe that we will enter our next phase of growth in Fiscal 2025, as we plan to deliver several groundbreaking titles that we anticipate will set new standards of quality and success and enable us to deliver over $8 billion in Net Bookings and over $1 billion in Adjusted Unrestricted Operating Cash Flow. We expect to sustain this momentum with additional growth in operating performance in Fiscal 2026.”

Zelnick noted in our interview that Take-Two has rarely talked about fiscal years so far in advance, but he said that reflected the company’s confidence. Zelnick will be a speaker at our online day for the GamesBeat Summit 2023 event on May 24.

Take-Two itself had expected net bookings for the fourth fiscal quarter ending March 31 of $1.31 billion to $1.36 billion. Recurrent consumer spending was up 115% in the quarter. Digitally-delivered net bookings increased 76% in the fiscal year and accounted for 97% of the total.

On a GAAP basis, Take-Two reported a net loss of $610.3 million, or $3.62 a share, on net revenues of $1.45 billion (up 56%) for the quarter, compared with a profit of $110.9 million, or 95 cents a share a year earlier.

Zynga details

High Heels is one of Rollic's games that has gone viral.
High Heels is one of Rollic’s games that has gone viral.

Zynga had a strong finish to the fiscal year, as in-app purchases were above expectations and momentum continued. Easter holiday demand was strong. The ad business was about 27% of Zynga’s bookings in the quarter, a strong showing.

It had good results in direct-to-consumer efforts, with numerous titles currently on the platforms and plans for nearly all mobile games across labels to leverage Take-Two’s highly profitable proprietary distribution channel over the next few years.

Strong games included Empires and Puzzles, Zynga’s highest-grossing title, as it drove engagement through its new in-game event Season of Love.

Zynga’s social casino portfolio had its best quarter in nearly two years, driven by record performance from Game of Thrones Slots Casino, and strong results from Zynga Poker, Hit It Rich, and Wizard of Oz Slots. Other big titles were Top Eleven, CSR Racing 2, and Popcore. Rollic also became more profitable with hits like Fill the Fridge and Pressure Washing Run.

NBA 2K, Star Wars: Hunters and more

This year, the company expects to deliver three immersive core games, including NBA 2K24 and WWE 2K24. On top of that, there is an unannounced title coming from one of the company’s premier studios in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024.

In the midcore/arcade space, the company is releasing Lego 2K Drive and it is launching After Us from Piccolo Studio on May 23 via Private Division. There are also two iterations of previously released titles and two more indie titles.

Among six mobile titles coming is Zynga’s Star Wars: Hunters. During the year, net bookings are expected to be 53% Zynga, 31% 2K, 15% Rockstar Games and 1% other. About 67% of revenues will come from the U.S., and 33% international.

Grand Theft Auto V / Grand Theft Auto Online

Los Santos Drug Wars update for GTA Online is live.
Los Santos Drug Wars update for GTA Online is live.

Take-Two said Grand Theft Auto V has sold 180x million. Last quarter, the number was 175 million units to date.

Red Dead Redemption 2 and more

Streaming games like Google
The world of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Take-Two said Red Dead Redemption 2 has sold more than 53 million. Last quarter, Take-Two said it had sold 50 million units to date. Meanwhile, Ken Levine’s Ghost Story Games is making a title called Judas, a single-player narrative shooter coming for multiple platforms. Zelnick said that the company is putting less emphasis on brand-new franchises, but the company always focuses on great creators and he is delighted that Levine, creator of the BioShock series, wants to work with Take-Two still.

Outlook for FY24

Take-Two expects its GAAP net revenue of $5.37 billion to $5.47 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024. The GAAP net loss is expected to be $518 million to $477 million, and the

Zelnick interview

In an interview with GamesBeat, I once again asked Zelnick when Grand Theft Auto 6 is coming and whether the FY25 $8 billion in bookings number was a big clue. He said he couldn’t answer that and “we always leave that to the labels” regarding game announcements.

Regarding the $8 billion number, he sad, “The key thing is that we have high expectations for FY24. At the beginning of this pipeline we’ve worked on for many years coming to fruition, we then have 36 titles coming in fiscal 25 and 26.”

He noted how the company talked about multiple years in the future only once before with Red Dead Redemption 2’s approach.

“And we only do so when we’re highly confident in the numbers. So we have talked about $8 billion in net bookings, for fiscal 25, with about a billion dollars in cash flow. And then we certainly expect sequential growth in fiscal 26 and beyond. And we do have 36 new titles coming in fiscal 25 and 26. Total of 52 in the next three years.”

Nearly half of those are new intellectual properties, he said. I asked about headwinds and tailwinds, and he felt that we still have headwinds from the economy.

“In a time of inflationary pressure, consumers still have to pay for food and fuel. And that means they have less discretionary income spent and they need to be more selective,” he said. “We’re seeing consumers in this space focus on blockbusters and on deeply discounted titles in that in certain instances benefits us we have blockbusters, and we have a great catalog. But with regard to new releases, we have seen some pressure and we do expect that to continue through this fiscal year.”

He noted how the company has chosen to become more efficient with a $50 million cost-reduction program that is exceeding its goals.

He noted that FYQ4 came in above expectations, aside from a $54 million impairment charge related to capitalized software costs for unreleased and canceled titles. He said the company doesn’t expect more layoffs and it doesn’t expect to be adding a lot of development resources. He said the company expects the economy to be about the same in the second half as it can’t really predict changes.

Regarding the success of big games like Tears of the Kingdom and Hollywood game-related shows, he said, “People show up for great properties. If you make great movies, people will come out for movies, based on the game. And it’s great people show up for it. If it’s based on a video game and it is not great, they won’t show up for it. So what’s exciting is that people are doing great work. And anytime consumers are in our market, we think that’s positive, even if it’s not our property.”

As for the funk in mobile games, he noted Zynga is outperforming the market. Regarding Apple’s emphasis on privacy over targeted ads, he said, “I don’t really think that what you’re seeing in the mobile market is driven by by the marketing changes that were ushered in by Apple’s policy change, I think what you’re seeing is is demand driven. And we’re seeing year-over-year comps that are improving for the industry. And in certain instances we’ve been outperforming in any case. Our advertising also is growing, and that represents about 27% of singles business. So that’s another way that we can monetize consumers in a space where fewer than 20% of consumers actually spend.”

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