Has Grand Theft Auto Peaked?

Has Grand Theft Auto Peaked?

The “relatively flat” performance of Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable content, and of GTA: Chinatown Wars for DS and PSP, has led Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter to question whether Take-Two’s blockbuster franchise has peaked.

“Given the strength of GTA IV in 2008, the question may seem misplaced, but our concern is that the very highly rated new GTA content for Xbox as well as PSP and DS did not perform up to expectations in 2009,” the analyst said, according to Industry Gamers.

“Now, we very clearly understand that these do not represent ‘true’ new GTA titles. However, the fact is that these were compelling titles, attractively priced, and reasonably well-promoted, yet they fell relatively flat. We do not mean to pour salt on an open wound, but this does raise questions about the strength of TTWO’s crown jewel. It is an issue we will monitor closely (we also note that we expect increased competition in the open-world action genre in 2010 and beyond).”

Schachter also noted that the publisher may struggle to be profitable in non-GTA years. Addressing this concern in response to analyst questioning during a recent financial results call, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick said (via Kotaku): “We’re certainly not saying we can’t be profitable in a non-GTA year. We don’t feel that GTA ought to be an annualised franchise.”

Zelnick said previously that titles like BioShock 2 could help drive profitability in the absence of a “1,000-pound gorilla” GTA release.

Reacting to Schachter’s comments, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter also weighed in on the debate surrounding the performance of the Xbox 360 exclusive GTA IV DLC, telling VG247: “Ben’s right that the DLC disappointed, but I suspect that the reason is that GTA games are so massive that a substantial majority of the GTA audience hasn’t finished the core game, so they don’t feel especially compelled to buy the DLC.”