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Take-Two's Zelnick Stresses Importance Of Metacritic Scores

As Take-Two makes a turn towards consistent profitability without total reliance on Grand Theft Auto, chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick stresses the importance of game reviewers' interpretation of quality.
As Take-Two makes a turn towards consistent profitability without total reliance on Grand Theft Auto, chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick stresses the importance of game reviewers' interpretation of quality. "Making good games just isn't good enough," Zelnick said at the Wedbush Morgan Securities Technology, Media & Telecommunications: Management Access Conference on Wednesday. "I believe good is the new bad. ... Games need to be great." It's a familiar mantra with Take-Two, which refuses to take the annualization route with its non-sports game franchises, instead focusing on a rotation of several wholly-owned, acclaimed series like GTA, BioShock, Red Dead Redemption and others. By not tying each franchise to an annual release -- and by retaining top industry talent -- Zelnick said Take-Two's developers can concentrate on releasing quality products. And when game reviewers recognize quality, that often equates to sales and profits, he said. "Unlike many other entertainment business -- there are just a few -- ratings by Metacritic and others' reviews really can influence the success of a newly-released title," he said. "In fact, if your ratings go below a certain level, it can really hurt your ability to sell the title, and above a certain level can make a real difference in your success," Zelnick added. "Our ability to have high scores over and over and over again is a huge competitive advantage, and that advantage drives sales, it reduces risk and creates profits." Zelnick also said high review scores extend the life of Take-Two products, generating longer-lasting, predictable sales of catalog titles. Just last month, review aggregator Metacritic found that Take-Two had the best overall ranking of 2010 for game review scores. The executive, who took over the previously embattled publisher in 2007, said Take-Two will continue to focus on the big-budget triple-A space because it's working out well for the company. But the firm is also exploring emerging business models and platforms, including Facebook, which hosts many lower-cost games that use microtransactions. Just don't expect Take-Two to ever give its core titles away for free in order to try to make sales off of related goods. In an answer to one attendee at the conference, Zelnick said, that'd be like "a motion picture company [putting] out a huge action release for free and let[ting] people see it for free in hopes of them buying t-shirts."

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