July to September has historically been a tumultuous time for Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Games. The company’s popular, with players and critics alike, NBA 2K series doesn’t hit until October and the April to June quarter is the domain of its monster Rockstar Games releases. In past years, Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption have carried the company through the summer drought, but disappointing performances from L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3 in the past two years haven’t brought that Rockstar reliability. In 2012? July to September wasn’t spectacular, but Take-Two cut losses and a certain Gearbox Software shooter became a non-Rockstar jewel in the publisher’s crown.
Let’s start with some raw numbers. Take-Two revenue shot up to $273 million for the period, more than two and a half times the $107 million for the same period in 2011. Big revenue or not, the company still reported a loss, but a meager $12.5 million loss compared to more than $47 million last year. That’s especially encouraging since those summer losses in 2011 contributed heavily to Take-Two’s mean $107 million loss for the full fiscal term last year.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick credited that loss to the absence of BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V from the 2K release schedule. Neither game appeared over the summer and early fall in 2012—despite some rumors that GTAV might put in surprise October appearance—so what helped the company cut its losses?
Gearbox Software’s Borderlands 2. Released at the tail end of the quarter, 2K Games has shipped 5 million copies of Borderlands 2 to date, 1.82 million of which were sold in September. Red Dead Redemption, one of the most profitable games 2K’s released in recent memory, sold just 1.5 million copies in its first month when it released in 2010. The multiplayer shooting series is officially a tent pole series for the publisher.
Take-Two also shared some info on the company’s big October releases, NBA 2K13 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. First, NBA 2K13 sales were up 49 percent over the previous bestseller in the franchise, NBA 2K11. That game sold about 4 million copies worldwide over its first three months on shelves, so while it’s tough to say what NBA 2K13 did precisely, it definitely did well. While no specific numbers were given, Take-Two did say that XCOM was “a critical and commercial success, with strong digital sales.” Those worried that the strategy game would struggle to find an audience can rest easy.
The final take away: Borderlands 3 is a guarantee at this point, as the franchise is vital to Take-Two’s future in the industry. NBA 2K13’s monopoly on the basketball market, and its growing popularity, means that it’s now even less likely that NBA Live will return as a competitor. Finally, XCOM’s success means that 2K Games will continue to take risks, funding genres and franchises that don’t have to compete with the Call of Dutys of the world.