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Take-Two wants "recurrent consumer spending" from all titles, won't always be virtual currency

Meanwhile CEO Strauss Zelnick remains confident Red Dead 2 won't cannibalise ongoing GTA Online success

Like most AAA publishers now, Take-Two Interactive aims to find new ways to monetise players long after their initial purchase.

In the firm's latest financials, the firm's executives regularly referenced "recurrent consumer spending" as a key source of revenue, with prime examples being in-game transactions for Grand Theft Auto Online and the NBA 2K series.

CEO Strauss Zelnick identified the Rockstar title as "the single largest contributor to recurrent consumer spending", while also noting that purchases made in NBA 2K18 are up nearly 60% over the previous version.

And the publisher doesn't intend to stop there.

"We aim to have recurrent consumer spending options for every title that we put out at this company," Zelnick told shareholders during an investor call, transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

He suggested that it won't always be based on games, such as GTA, and that it "probably won't always be a virtual currency model" but said the publisher does aim to "engage on an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board."

"And that's a sea change in our business, and recurrent consumer spending is 42% of our net bookings in the quarter," he continued. "It's been transformative for us and the only reason it's transformative for us is because it's transformative to our consumers.

"The business that once upon a time was a big chunky opportunity to engage for tens of hours or perhaps 100 hours has turned into ongoing engagement, day-after-day, week-after-week. You fall in love with these titles and they become part of your daily life."

Zelnick's comments follow months of controversy across the AAA games industry over the inclusion of microtransactions in full-price games - something the CEO says the publisher is all to aware of.

Rival publishers such as Electronic Arts seem to be taking a similar stance. When EA closed Visceral Games last month, it was partly because the studio's Star Wars project did not lend itself to long-term engagement - and, by extension, that recurrent consumer spending.

Take-Two has also confirmed another trend we've seen across AAA publishers: the rise of digital sales vs boxed. The firm's CFO Lainie Goldstein reported that full-game downloads on consoles account for 35% of all sales. Earlier this week, Capcom reported a digital ratio of 33.6%, while last week's EA financials showed digital revenues (including full-game downloads, live services and DLC) make up 22% of all earnings.

Elsewhere in the Q&A, Zelnick addressed concerns that the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018 might cannibalise the ongoing success of Grand Theft Online - or that GTA Online's engagement levels will limit the number of people interested in the Wild West sequel.

"Entertainment competes with every activity and no activity," Zelnick said. "And to the extent that we are competitive, we compete with all of our own titles and everyone else's titles too. So, I don't think the launch of any new title specifically has a direct effect on an existing title any more than someone else launching a competitive title would affect for example how one of our titles is doing.

"If we have something great in the market and we continue to support it with great content, people will continue to show up. That's historically the case and certainly that's our aim. So, we think Red Dead stands alone. Naturally we're incredibly excited. I think the whole market is. And, but it will stand alone and succeed on its own merits."

While nothing has been confirmed for Red Dead Redemption 2, it's widely expected that the game will have a GTA Online-style multiplayer to drive 'recurrent consumer spending', although we'll see whether it lasts four years as GTA has.

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