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Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick not ready to back Nintendo Wii U

Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Games and 2K Sports, is in no rush for the next generation of gaming machines to hit the market. The company’s E3 2012 line up, including next week’s Spec Ops: The Line as well as this fall’s Borderlands 2 and franchise rebirth XCOM: Enemy Unknown, was arguably the strongest line up of games from any publisher at the conference. All of its games will be available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, not to mention high-end PCs. Even 2K’s 2011 games are still hitting hard; NBA 2K12 made it into the top ten bestselling games in May. 2013 is looking bright too with Grand Theft Auto V and BioShock Infinite. Current gen is the name of 2K’s game right now.

That does not necessarily mean that the company is interested in Nintendo’s Wii U, even if the tablet-controller console is perfectly capable of running 2K’s games.

In a Monday interview with Gamasutra, Take-Two president Strauss Zelnick said that his company isn’t ready to throw its development weight behind Wii U. “We haven’t announced anything yet,” said Zelnick, “I’m skeptical.”

Take-Two will be ready when the next round of machines from Microsoft and Sony introduce technology capable of running games built on advanced technology like Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 though. When they do, it’ll be with new games, not necessarily sequels to popular titles from the previous hardware. “I don’t want to minimize the challenge of creating titles for new technology or the economic challenges of doing that, but if you get it right, it’s a terrific time to launch new IP,” said the executive.

The Wii U and its trademark controller of course represent the ultimate opportunity for developing new intellectual property: It is a machine built around an unusual, unique amalgamation of technology with the potential to inspire game makers in new ways. New IP for Wii U will be new IP that can’t be made anywhere else.

By limiting its technological capabilities though Nintendo makes Wii U a losing proposition for publishers like Take-Two. While 2K Games and 2K Sports have a line up of games that could run on Wii U’s hardware, that pool of software will dry up by the beginning of 2014 as those developers do begin work on advanced platforms in earnest. The controller’s unique properties, namely the tablet interface, render the Wii U useful for tailor-made multiplayer games, but the system’s lack of an online infrastructure comparable to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network make multiplatform multiplayer games like Borderlands 2 problematic. New IP could be established on the platform, but by the time these games are developed and released, the audience will already be looking at other platforms.

In effect, it’s the exact same scenario that kept publishers like Take-Two from developing more titles for the original Wii back in 2006, and Take-Two was smart to avoid the platform. For all but a few third-party properties, like EA’s flash in the pan Carnival Games, Wii was a toxic environment for publishers.

Nintendo should be very concerned about Zelnick’s comments. Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment may be on board with Wii U, but they’re not enough to make a console sing.