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Analysts are slavering over GTA Online's potential to generate revenues, but CEO Strauss Zelnick just isn't ready to talk about it -- though he says online is a big focus for the company.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

February 3, 2014

3 Min Read

Everybody wants to know how much money GTA Online can make -- but Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick isn't interested in answering that question just yet. In Take-Two's latest earnings call following its third quarter results, Zelnick had to dodge the question repeatedly, as different analysts found new ways to rephrase it and pose it again and again. It's clear they're slavering over the profit potential of a free-to-play, online GTA game. GTA Online is a component of Grand Theft Auto V, but Take-Two and the analysts both consider it a separate title rather than an online mode. The company did reveal that 70 percent of players whose consoles were connected to the internet while playing GTA V played GTA Online. Beyond that: No data on player metrics or percentage of players making purchases, though Zelnick did allow that GTA Online was the "single biggest contributor to our online revenue during the quarter," and the company promised a "very positive outlook for the future" of the title. The game monetizes via currency packages sold to players, but Zelnick said that Take-Two is "not making decisions in order to extract value. We're making decisions to delight consumers and that includes with creating value... As long as people keep loving GTA Online, that's going to be great for us."

Online: Take-Two is On It

In fact, the company chalked up its continued success to increased sales of DLC across all of its titles, as well as in-game currency purchases for NBA 2K14. Players, apparently, will purchase in-game currency, even for a premium title. The shift to more robust online and DLC functionality in its games is a "key strategic focus, and important driver of initial revenue and profits, and will strengthen our results between frontline releases," Zelnick said. The latter is relevant as the company often sees huge spikes in profits following its big console launches, which analysts have criticized in the past. In fact, Borderlands 2 is still generating profit thanks to DLC, and will continue to do so in the future, the company promised. "The popularity of downloadable content for Borderlands 2 was an important factor in helping it become the most popular release in the history of [Take-Two publishing label] 2K," Zelnick said. The company did promise "substantial" single-player DLC for Grand Theft Auto V, but was totally unwilling to discuss what form it may take or when it might be released.

Mobile: We're Sticking to Our Guns

Analysts have long goaded Take Two to more aggressively pursue mobile, particularly of late in the free-to-play space, but Zelnick was adamant that the company's strategy of porting older games and selling them for premium prices is going to continue to be how things are. "I think I view mobile differently than you do," Zelnick said to one analyst, after hearing a suggestion that the company should make free-to-play games. Earlier, he had said "we don't really distinguish between mobile and non-mobile," and that continued to be his position. "I don't want to confuse mobile with the free-to-play model," Zelnick said. "We're able to delight consumers and make money." The real limitation, he said, is processing power for tablets -- which suggests as strongly as any other indicator that the company's strategy of porting its triple-A games to tablets will continue. He previously had said that he was very happy with the performance of current-gen console port XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iPad. "A platform a consumer wants to experience our content on is good for us," he said today. "If that's where people want to consume video games, that's where we'll be."

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