Thriving Core

Take-Two's sales figures suggest there's never been a better time to be a core gamer.

Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz's widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial, is a weekly dissection of an issue weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.

It's not every week that we get a torrent of sales information like the one which Take-Two opened up at a Wedbush Securities conference earlier this week - but then again, looking at the figures in question, it's not hard to see why Take-Two is pretty confident about letting it all hang out in public.

After all, what publisher wouldn't want the world to know that its top franchise has now topped 100 million unit sales, while the healthy progress of several other wholly-owned IPs is demonstrating an admirable and ongoing ability to build multi-million-selling franchises from scratch?

Take-Two has been an interesting beast to follow over recent years. Various regulatory and management concerns have dogged the company, and it has been lumbered by the - far from undeserved - belief in the markets that it is simply the "GTA Company", with all of its other franchises being little more than snacks between the meals that are GTA.

In spite of the former issues, and perhaps driven forward by the latter concern, Take-Two has done a sterling job in recent years of building and maintaining a stable of major franchises. This week's figures don't quite shatter the image of a company that's built heavily around the GTA franchise - the headline figure was that GTA IV is now touching 20 million sales - but they do reinforce that GTA is in rude health, and that Take-Two has many other strings to its bow.

"There have, however, been changes in the core gaming market."

The argument that mid-range publishers face a bleak future is fairly widely accepted at this stage. Publishers below the (extremely short) A-list have been told for years that either they need to find a specialist niche, preferably one with high barriers to entry or a sufficiently different business model to the mainstream games business as to discourage larger predators - or very quickly elevate themselves to the ranks of the AAA publishers, which is no mean feat even when the industry isn't in such a state of flux.

Take-Two has successfully, for the most part, taken the second of those options, fuelled by the security and confidence granted to the company by GTA's blockbuster success. What's really worth noting, from a wider industry perspective, is that it's also done so while remaining almost entirely focused on the "core" market.

Much attention has, of course, been focused away from the core market in recent years - and that's both correct and entirely understandable, given the extent to which innovations like the Wii, the App Store, Facebook gaming and so on have redefined the landscape of the industry. However, as Take-Two's figures (and those of several other firms besides, not least of all Microsoft, EA and - to some extent - Activision) prove, there are plenty of huge franchises and massively successful games being created in the core market - more so than ever, in fact.

There have, however, been changes in the core gaming market - they've just been rather more subtle than the enormous upheavals in mobile and social gaming. In some cases, it's even the same technology which has created new markets in mobile and social gaming that's enabling these changes to core gaming. The commonplace use of DLC add-ons, for example, has created new opportunities to turn hit games into ongoing revenue streams - something which Take-Two itself has exploited superbly with its add-on content for GTA IV.

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