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Take-Two Talks Approval Process, 'Nonsensical' Ratings

At its '100-day plan' update meeting, Take-Two executives Strauss Zelnick and Ben Feder outlined a new committee that will oversee approval and development of every new title, and criticized the current ratings system that won't allow an appropriately rat
At its '100-day plan' update meeting, Take-Two executives Strauss Zelnick and Ben Feder outlined a new committee that will oversee approval and development of every new title, and criticized the current ratings system that won't allow an appropriately rated game to come to market. The One Hundred Days During the call, Take-Two chairman Zelnick said that the 100-day plan process was complete and that the company was executing on the plans earlier than expected, which, when concluded, are to lower the company's overhead by $25 million by fiscal 2008. CEO Feder noted that the restructuring of the company was well underway, that it was in 'productive' talks with its licensing partners to grow its sports business, that it was continuing to seek buyers for its Jack Of All Games and Joytech divisions, and that it was "continuing to press for resolution" with the Manhattan District Attorney and SEC for all its outstanding legal and regulatory issues. A New Committee For New Games Most importantly, Feder announced a "more disciplined product investment strategy," which will "manage initial selection and subsequent development" of all future Take-Two titles. Feder said Take-Two had formed a "product investment review committee," consisting of the company chairman, CEO, CFO and senior management of publishing labels who would evaluate each internal or externally proposed title. Once concept and design were fleshed out or third party opportunity identified, said Feder, the committee would meet to review budget, milestones, sales and ROI potential, and would continue to meet on at least a quarterly basis to refine assumptions and expectations, perform a financial review and review launch plans and associated budgets. Finally, after the launch of the title, the company would take on a retrospective review to evaluate key lessons learned. Feder was quick to point out that they were "not calling it a greenlight process," that it was instead an "investment review process," and that the Take-Two board was "not trying to have creative control," but instead implement "financial accountability." Though there would be a number of senior executives in the initial meeting, Feder said they anticipate that at "various stages we'll need input from different managers." Manhunt 2 And The AO Effect Finally, the company talked at length regarding the recent controversy surrounding the AO rating of its forthcoming Manhunt 2. Zelnick said that Take-Two was "dealing with the challenging development in a professional and highly focused manner," and continuing to evaluate options but was determined to bring the game to consumers "as unvarnished nad unchanged as possible," but also "in a responsible fashion." "We don't see ourselves in the AO business," said Zelnick, "and if we find ourselves there, it would be because we have a title we consider art and entertainment, that we consider appropriately rated at AO, that we’d like to bring to market." "In that instance," he continued, "one has to ask oneself what is the purpose of a rating if it means that it effectively the title can't be released." Zelnick used the opportunity to say that the issue "doesn't fall at the doorstep of the retailers," and that it's "not correct to be critical of retailers, because this is a voluntary ratings organization in the U.S. We have to be critical of ourselves if we've allowed a system to develop that prevents us from bringing a title to market." "That's something we have to address," he said, noting that Feder is a board member of the ESA, and adding that "we could envision changes that would make sense." "The notion of having a rating we don't think is appropriate is one issue," he continued, "if we feel a rating is appropriate and we can't bring it to market, that seems somewhat nonsensical, and both issues need to be addressed." Zelnick added in response to a question that Take-Two was "absolutely looking at digital downloading... we're in that business aggressively," and again stressed that "we do think its terribly important to bring original producers' and creators' vision of Manhunt 2 to the public." "If that we means we have to be clever about how we distribute it," hinted Zelnick, "we will be 'ambitious and aggressive' about bringing that to market."

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