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Battleborn Sales Below Take-Two Expectations, But Company Not Giving Up

by Mike Futter on Aug 05, 2016 at 01:19 AM

During its earnings call yesterday, Take-Two took a moment to comment on the performance of Gearbox’s latest game, Battleborn. The game has struggled out of the gate, but the publisher isn’t giving up on it quite yet.

In his prepared remarks, CEO Strauss Zelnick was up front about how the game fared with both critics and customers. “While the game launched to solid reviews, its performance in the market has been below our expectations,” he said. “We think there remains an opportunity to grow the audience for this unique experience over time, and 2K will continue to drive engagement and recurrent consumer spending on the title through add-on content and virtual currency.”

The tenor of the comments isn’t entirely unlike how Take-Two spoke about Evolve last year following its release. Recently, new life was breathed into it with a completely free version called Evolve Stage 2.

2K has opted not to monetize the game at all right now. This is led to growing the player base from about 200 to more than 2 million since the reboot one month ago. There is room to introduce purchases for currency tied to cosmetics or major content add-ons later.

Later in the conversation, Zelnick mentioned the two games side-by-side. While this isn’t hinting at Battleborn moving into a free-to-play model, the comparison bears watching. This follows a rapid drop in price that even saw Gearbox’s “hero shooter” as one of about ten games in a Humble Bundle, effectively pricing the game at $15.

“So with regard to Battleborn, we're being very frank about where we are, because we're a transparent company,” Zelnick said. “We're still delivering new content to Battleborn. Audiences love Battleborn. We still have virtual currency coming for Battleborn. We're not counting it out for a minute. We're just telling you where we're at now. And equally, we just launched Evolve Stage 2, which is another way to express the IP of Evolve. And we've had over 1 million people sign up to play Evolve Stage 2, and that's super exciting.”

For more on Take-Two’s first quarter, check out our coverage from yesterday’s earnings report.

 

Our Take
For Battleborn to have a real shot at a solid audience, it needs something like Evolve Stage 2. According to SteamCharts, the game’s 30-day average player count is under 1,000. 

The bind 2K and Gearbox are in is that the DLC hasn’t even fully rolled out yet. There are still three characters left to go before the season pass is fulfilled. That’s going to hold up any change in business model for at least the next couple of months.

Evolve has proven that games can be resurrected to solid performance, but not without effort and passion. It will be interesting to see if 2K and Gearbox are up to that challenge.