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Take-Two’s CEO has his doubts about a Netflix pricing model for video games

While several publishers in the video game space are touting an all-you-can-play, Netflix-like pricing model, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, has some concerns.

Microsoft is going all-in with GamePass and Ubisoft has Uplay+, both of which include access to older games as well as new releases for a fixed monthly price. Zelnick, though, says it doesn’t make economic sense to include the latest and greatest titles in those packages.

“You have to find the intersection of what’s, first, good for the consumer … and also what works for the publisher and distributor,” he told Digital Trends. “We don’t think it makes sense to offer frontline products day and date on a subscription service. And we’re hard-pressed to think that will ever make sense.”

Games, he says, aren’t the same as movies. The amount of time consumers spend with a single title is typically much longer than they’d spend watching a film or even bingeing a series. That’s especially true with franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption. So, he doesn’t see the value proposition of the business model for consumers, he says.

“In the case of interactive entertainment, consumers will play titles for many months, and they may devote their attention to one, two or three titles — and, in that event, it’s hard to imagine that a broad-based subscription offering at a high or moderate price is going to be all that interesting to the bulk of people,” Zelnick said.

Of course, Zelnick has business interests to protect when it comes to top-line products. Grand Theft Auto is still a top-selling game seven years after its release — and a major contributor to the company’s bottom line. The company does have older titles in services like GamePass, though.

The pandemic has also raised concerns about the timeline of some game titles throughout the industry this year. Zelnick noted that Take-Two remains on track with its games (only Kerbel Space Program 2 has been delayed). And while things have a long way to go before they’re back to normal at the publisher, there have been some advances.

Take-Two’s offices in China are open once again. Zelnick says the company has been able to resume motion capture sessions for games. And some employees will be headed back to the office soon.

“What comes first is the safety of our colleagues and their comfort levels,” he says. “Then we’ll be guided by what science says and what government authorities say. So, we would expect that, depending on the location, people will be returning to offices in the next month or so. And in certain locations that won’t be possible. … It’s not something I want to see continue any longer than it has to.”

Day-to-day office life in the video game industry is evolving at the same time, though. Recent allegations of sexual misconduct at Ubisoft and by several prominent streamers on Twitch have every publisher reviewing their own internal procedures and work environment.

To date, no such accusations have been made at Take-Two. But Zelnick says it’s a matter he and the company take extraordinarily seriously.

“The tone is set from the top in every company,” he said. “We have a culture of inclusion and common decency, and that threads through all of our labels and our corporation. We’re grateful. As a result, we have not had any issues. That said, we do have 5,550 people around the world and always have to be mindful of maintaining our code of decorum. … We care. And everyone knows we care. But is that a guarantee against a lapse? Of course not. To say otherwise would be insensitive.”

Take-Two already has group-wide training in place, he says, as well as policies and procedures. And the attention to that is something he says will not waver.

“I don’t think you could ever pay enough attention to treating people fairly and appropriately, so of course, our attention is always growing,” he said. “That said, I’m very comfortable with how our company performs on this topic. It’s a daily concern that that is maintained.”

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Chris Morris
Chris Morris has covered consumer technology and the video game industry since 1996, offering analysis of news and trends and…
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