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Zelnick: Annual releases burn out franchises

Take-Two CEO says publisher doesn't exhaust its IP the way its rivals do, aims to have at least one blockbuster launch per year

Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Grand Theft Auto and BioShock publisher Take-Two, claims his firm's competitors regularly run the risk of their franchises 'burning out' - something he believes his team's own IP is immune to.

GameSpot reports that the exec, speaking to investors at an MKM Partners event, stressed that an annual release schedule does more harm than good to blockbuster games properties, insisting the quality of titles like Red Dead would suffer if a new outing launched every year.

"If we took all [of our franchises] and we just turned it into an annualised schedule - leaving everything else to the side - the math says you would be in a better place. But what would it imply?" Zelnick said.

"It would imply doubling our development teams. It would imply calling into question our quality. And it would imply the risk that consumers tire of these franchises. One of the things that's best about Take-Two is our franchises seem to be permanent. They're beloved and permanent. Whereas our competitors burn off their franchises, which means they have to create new ones, which is incredibly difficult to do."

Zelnick further observed that if you look at the various IP spread across Rockstar and 2K Games - which includes Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, NBA 2K, WWE 2K, Civilization, BioShock and Borderlands - the publisher actually has eleven franchises in which a single title has sold over 5m copies.

He added that Take-Two has released 54 games with sales of more than 2m copies, an achievement he claims is "second-to-none" in the games industry. Zelnick's goals is to have enough franchises to allows the publisher to release different ones each year. This would not only give each property time to rest between entries, it would give the firm "a really powerful release schedule without burning off the IP".

Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced last month - six years after the original - and is due to land on shelves in 2017. It will be the third entry in the Red Dead series since 2004, and analysts expect it to sell 12 million copies.

Take-Two's triple-A rivals have been experimenting with their own solutions of weathering the pressure to release new outings in their top franchises on an annual basis. Ubisoft has rested Assassin's Creed this year ahead of an expected reboot in 2017 and to give more room for Watch Dogs 2, making it highly likely the two series will alternate. While the publisher has released the HD remaster of the Assassin's Creed II trilogy, this is the first year without a new entry in the series since 2008.

Similarly, Electronic Arts appears to be alternating between releases of Battlefield, with Battlefield 1 launching last month, and Star Wars Battlefront, with the next entry expected ahead of Episode VIII in Q4 2017. Activision, meanwhile, has taken a different approach. While Call of Duty releases remain annual, the teams behind them are now on a three-year development cycle: this year's Infinite Warface by Infinity Ward will be followed next year by a new Sledgehammer Games outing - presumably Advanced Warfare 2 - then a title from Black Ops developer Treyarch in 2018.

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