The lights are on
Max Payne 3's delay announcement this morning can only mean one thing: Take-Two wants to own the month of May. But where does this leave Grand Theft Auto V?
Ever since Red Dead Redemption’s May release two years ago, Take-Two has indentified the month as its personal release window that other publishers have quickly learned to avoid. Take-Two has proved that games don't need to be released during the holiday months to sell big.
Red Dead Redemption quickly shipped 5 million copies in a matter of weeks of releasing in May 2010 and has seen sales reach the 11 million mark total since this past August. One year later in May 2011, Rockstar released L.A. Noire, and while the title didn’t blow up like Red Dead Redemption did, it still pulled in a respectable 4 million units.
Today, Take-Two says Max Payne 3 is shipping May 15, 2012 which moves the game out of the company’s fiscal 2012 fourth quarter 2012 into its 2013 fiscal year, which begins April 2012 and ends March 2013. Because of this, Take-Two says it now expects to report a loss for fiscal year 2012.
“Max Payne 3 promises to be one of our most exciting releases to date, and we are confident that consumers will once again be amazed by Rockstar's ability to take interactive entertainment to another level,” said Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick.
Take-Two says its 2013 fiscal year, which will see the releases of BioShock Infinite, Borderlands 2, Spec Ops: The Line, XCOM, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, will be one of its best years ever and anticipates an earnings per share of over $2.00.
With Max Payne slipping to May, this doesn’t leave whole lot of room for Take-Two to release Grand Theft Auto V in 2012. National Alliance Capital Markets analyst Mike Hickey believes players could still see the game this year, however.
“It seems unlikely that Rockstar Games would launch both Max Payne 3 and GTA 5 in the month on May,” Hickey said. “Therefore, we have shifted our original expectation for GTA V to launch in May 2012, into the Company’s 2013 fiscal second-half operating period (release window: Sept. ’12 – March ‘13).
“We remain confident GTA V will ship in calendar year ’12, based on an assumption that Rockstar is using a sub 12 month marketing window for GTA V and the Company’s fiscal 2013 performance guidance, which would suggest the game’s release."
Jesse Divnich of EEDAR believes we’ll see the title by next March. “[Take-Two] are still saying they will achieve $2.00 earnings per share in fiscal 2013, so Grand Theft Auto V has to come out by March 2013.”
Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes Grand Theft Auto V will likely go up against this holiday’s big releases. “I don't know if [the delay] means a full year gap, but very likely six months,” he said. “Too bad, as I think Grand Theft Auto V would benefit from giving Call of Duty some breathing room.”
This much is clear, history shows Take-Two likes to release its big games in May, and Grand Theft Auto V is its biggest game ever. A release for GTA V this year still seems likely, but don’t be surprised to see it slip to May 2013.