Commentary > Game Over
'Grand Theft Auto' pays for Take Two
'Vice City' sells 8.5 million copies in three months, but sequel may not hit streets until 2004.
February 27, 2003: 4:18 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Bat-wielding gangsters are the heroes of Take Two Interactive Software these days, but Duke Nukem's popularity is starting to fade.

The exceedingly popular (and controversial) "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" has sold more than 8.5 million copies worldwide since its late October debut. Those sales, according to the company, made up 68 percent of Take Two's first quarter revenue of $408.8 million.

The video game publisher reported a first quarter profit of $50.5 million in its fiscal first quarter, compared to $34.8 million in 2002. Additionally, the company raised guidance for its full fiscal year to $970 million.

Write-downs and impairment costs totaled $14.5 million, with a significant portion of that blamed on the anticipated, but long-delayed action game "Duke Nukem Forever". First announced in 1998, the game still has no targeted release date. And company officials said there's no hope of it shipping within the next three months.

"While the team is vigorously working on the game, the risks associated with the extended development time caused us to re-evaluate the carrying value of this property," said Take Two (TTWO: Research, Estimates) CEO Jeffrey Lapin in a conference call with analysts.

vice city  
"GTA: Vice City" has sold more than 8.5 million copies.

Sales of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, meanwhile, continue to be brisk. In addition to "Vice City's" staggering numbers, its predecessor "Grand Theft Auto 3" has shown remarkable staying power. It was the top selling game of 2001 and the second-best selling game of 2002, which allowed it to keep its "AAA" retail price of $50 for 15 consecutive months, a feat practically unheard of in the gaming industry. (Earlier this month, Take Two lowered the price of "GTA3" to $29.99.)

As far as when we'll see a new installment in the "Grand Theft Auto" series, it might be a while. The company says the next extension will come out in fiscal 2004 (which begins Nov. 1). Also planned for a fiscal 2004 release is the sequel to "Max Payne", which sold over 3.5 million copies and earned Take Two over $100 million.

Analysts say they do not expect "Max Payne 2" and the next "Grand Theft Auto" game to both be released in the holiday season, but concede it's hard to handicap Take Two's release schedule.

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Rockstar Studios, the developers of "GTA" will release at least one new franchise this year called "Manhunt". That game, which is being developed by the team that created the "GTA" franchise, is due to hit stores somewhere between August and the end of October. Details about the game, including its genre, are still shrouded in mystery.

Still, Take Two realizes that Rockstar is its ace in the hole when it comes to gargantuan hit titles. The developer has 11 titles in the works, only three of which have been publicly disclosed - the next "GTA" game, "Manhunt" and a game based on the 1979 film "The Warriors".

"There is a much larger pipeline at this company than we talk about," said Lapin.  Top of page

Morris is Director of Content Development for CNN/Money. Click here to send him an email.

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