by Tyler Clifford, CNBC
Nearly eight years since the release of “Grand Theft Auto V,” the biggest game under the Take-Two Interactive umbrella is selling better than ever, CEO Strauss Zelnick told CNBC’s Jim Cramer Tuesday.
The video game, the latest major release of the “Grand Theft Auto” title series from the game developer’s Rockstar Games division, sold about 20 million units in 2020 and has now sold 140 million units since its release, according to figures released in Take-Two’s corporate earnings reports.
“We’re grateful for the incredible work that Rockstar Games has done with ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto Online,‘” Zelnick said in an interview on “Mad Money.” “It’s absolutely amazing that ‘Grand Theft Auto’ has sold more units in calendar 2020 than it did in any year since its original release in 2013. It’s just extraordinary.”
Since the first release of the action-adventure franchise in the late 1990s, Rockstar Games has sold more than 335 million units of the series, Take-Two said in its latest quarterly report out Monday. In the company’s fiscal third quarter, Take-Two brought in $814 million in net bookings and produced earnings per share of $1.24, beating analyst estimates.
Net bookings account for both digital and physical sales.
During the three-month period that ended Dec. 31, Take-Two’s net bookings were down 8% from the $888 million that was reported in the year-ago quarter. Despite the drop in business last quarter, net bookings were up 22% in the first three quarters of its 2021 fiscal year. Recurrent consumer spending, revenue that is expected to continue in the future, increased 30% and made up for 58% of net bookings, the company said.
Net bookings growth was powered in large part by the “Grand Theft Auto,” “NBA 2K” and “Mafia” game franchises.
“Grand Theft Auto,” which revenue has grown $227 million in Take-Two’s current fiscal year, isn’t the company’s only winner.
“We do have a lot of other franchises: 11 franchises have each sold at least 5 million with an individual release; 67 franchises that have had at least one 2 million unit release,” Zelnick said. “I don’t think any other company can say that. And we’re trying to create more.”
Zelnick says the video game industry, much like the subscriber growth seen in video streaming subscriptions, has benefited from consumers seeking more at-home entertainment amid the pandemic. After attracting new gamers and reactivating previously existing gamers, Take-Two expects the trends to continue post-pandemic, he said.
“We don’t need to eat everyone’s lunch to be successful, however there has been a systemic shift in favor of interactive entertainment, which remains the most rapidly growing part of the audiovisual entertainment business,” he said. “I think that will continue.”
Take-Two raised its outlook for the 2021 fiscal year, which is set to close at the end of March. The company expects net bookings to range between $602 million and $652 million in the current quarter, while guiding between $3.37 billion and $3.42 billion of net bookings for the fiscal year. Take-Two previously forecast net bookings of between $3.15 billion and $3.25 billion.
Shares of Take-Two sold off more than 6% Tuesday, bringing the stock to $200.31 at the close. The decline pulled the stock down 3.6% year-to-date.