In part one I discussed the video game industy as a whole, as well as the fate of the big 3 hardware manufacturers. Part two examined the relatively rosey outlook for the industry’s two biggest software publishers: Electronic Arts and Activision/Blizzard. In part three we’ll take a look at more of gaming’s publishers. They all speak loudly, but who will carry a big stick?
Take Two is the company behind Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar, as well as 2K games. They bravely fought a takeover bid from EA to soldier on alone and solely reap the benefits of 2008’s triumphant juggernaut Grand Theft Auto IV. They also solely cope with the failures. Despite the fact that GTA has moved 13 million copies to date, the company saw losses of more than $50 million. Maybe that EA merger wasn’t such a bad idea after all?
If Take Two couldn’t make money in a year that saw GTA IV make its way into nearly every mature gamer’s console or computer of choice, could they ever expect to turn a profit? Well… yes. GTA IV was just the start for this current generation of systems. Much like GTA III led to the giant successes of GTA Vice City, San Andreas, and even Liberty City and Vice City Stories, GTA IV will (and already has) led to much much more. Spin-offs will abound, perhaps as early as next year, and downloadable content will surely follow as The Lost and Damned is already an unqualified success.
However, Rockstar is more than just Grand Theft Auto. Mafia II and Red Dead Redemption are both beautiful and long-awaited follow ups that will do well with GTA fans waiting for their next fix. On the same note, Take Two is more than just Rockstar. 2K games will contribute with their annual sports releases as well as the upcoming sci-fi shooter Borderlands.
And then their is perhaps this year’s game of the year: Bioshock 2. Yes I said THIS year’s game of the year. Those of you keeping up with this article may remember me saying I don’t expect a follow up to possibly the best ever single payer FPS this year. Oops. The two weeks that followed that unfortunate statement has seen a deluge of press attention including the hypnotic site somethinginthesea.com and a cover story in the latest issue of Game Informer. Turns out this title will be out before Halloween according to Take Two execs and you can expect it to do much better than the first installment in regards to sales.
Other money makers for Take Two this year: any baseball game released on the Wii, including The Bigs, MLB Superstars, and Power Pros series, current and future downloadable content for GTA.
What will lose money: Beaterator, NHL 2K10, Major League Baseball 2K9.
Don’t expect to see in 2009: A follow up to Bully, a GTA game for PSP.
Overall Outlook: Take-Two will recover this year and should turn a profit. However, I would be surprised not to hear any more merger talk in regards to this company. The bridge has certainly been burned with EA but I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if Activision stepped in.
The year is already a success for Capcom with the early releases of Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5. While the quality of these titles is an endless debate amongst the authors here at PNG, the financial success of these franchises cannot be debated. While this doesn’t leave much else on their docket for the rest of the year, these two titles (RE5 in particular) will sell strong well into next year. Though certainly controversial, expect even more bones to roll in thanks to Resident Evil’s surprise downloadble content.
One title is on the radar though. Despite numerous setbacks, Bionic Commando is a few months off. Certainly this franchise is due to re-capture the hearts and minds of gamers after an almost unheard of layoff. Despite the sentimentality of us long-time gamers, I expect the game to have only moderate success at retail and most likely cost the company money. This one has mixed reviews written all over it.
Also, Capcom used the increased press attention of RE5 to announce a follow up to Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles on the Wii, titled Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles, as well as a remake of the GameCube hit Resident Evil Zero, and a remake of a remake, the original Resident Evil. While this may sarcastically qualify as “big friggin deal” news compared to RE5, both RE4 and Umbrella Chronicles were big hits on the Wii and you can expect more of the same for these newly announced titles. However, Capcom is one of the few companies that has figured out that you don’t always have to bring out your big guns at Christmas. While one of these games may find it’s way under gamer’s trees, I would expect all three to come out in 2010.
Other money makers for Capcom: random low budget DS, Live Arcade, PSN, and WiiWare titles. Eleventeen different Mega Man games.
What will lose money: I’m looking at you Bionic Commando
Don’t expect to see in 2009: anything Devil May Cry, a Mega Man console title, a follow up to Okami (sadly I don’t think we’ll ever see it), a Legend of Zelda DS title (yes Capcom, not Nintendo handles the portable adventures of Link).
Overall Outlook: While Capcom will ride Resident Evil for all it’s worth, layoffs would not be at all shocking. A Merger would be a surprise, but rumors of one, perhaps with companies such as Konami and Sega would not.
This should be quick. Midway doesn’t have much time left. Their debt is considerably more than their value and there is even talks of insider trading. Mortal Kombat is rumored to be for sale. As this is their only money making franchise, this would in no way be a wise move. But, with their back against the wall, they may have no choice. Such a profitable franchise with a large base of fans would be too irresistible for a company like EA with no successful fighting franchise to speak of. However, I predict Activision, always hungry for established IP and also lacking a proven fighter, will step in with their limitless World of Warcraft cash and publish the next MK game, as early as this October.
Overall Outlook: Turn off the lights, the party’s over. While Mortal Kombat will live on, Midway will not. Rest in Peace.
Three more down, a whole lot more to go. Join me next week for part 4.