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NBA 2K17, Mafia III break 2K launch records

Update: Mafia III and NBA 2K17 both sold in 4.5 million units, Civ VI sold 1 million, and GTA V sell in now tops 70 million

Update: Mafia III shipped 4.5 million units to retailers on its launch week, Take-Two has confirmed, proving its claim that Hangar 13's game is the fastest selling in the history of the 2K label.

If it beat NBA 2K17, however, the margin must have been fine, as the company told investors - per Seeking Alpha - that the latest iteration of its basketball franchise also shipped 4.5 million units. Civilization VI is a record-setter, too, with Friaxis' new title reaching 1 million sales faster than any previous entry in the series.

Finally, Take-Two issued a reminder of the enduring success of Grand Theft Auto V, which has now sold in more than 70 million units.

Original Story: The announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2 has gamers and Take-Two investors alike eagerly anticipating the game's release next fall, but the company's been giving both camps reasons to pay attention in the meantime. Take-Two today announced its results for the quarter ended September 30, meeting (and in the case of bookings, exceeding) guidance and touting some record-breaking recent releases.

September's NBA 2K17 and Mafia III (which launched in the current quarter) set new records, with the former selling in more units at release than any previous title in the franchise, and the latter selling in more units than any previous game on the 2K label (which includes BioShock and Borderlands, but not Rockstar series like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption). The company also noted that NBA 2K17 posted the highest Metacritic scores that series has seen to date, as well as the best scores of any annualized sports game this console generation. (As of this writing, NBA 2K17 has a Metacritic average of 90, which the series has previously surpassed, but not since Take-Two acquired it from Sega in 2005.)

Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick acknowledged Mafia III's reviews were not quite as record-setting as its sales. At the moment, they range from 62 to 69, depending on the platform. However, he characterized its overall reception as "phenomenal."

"I think the scores have been a bit disappointing because there were some scores much lower than we expected," Zelnick said. "But the reviews, especially from those who matter, have been phenomenal. And consumers absolutely love it; it's selling really well."

While it has been years since the NBA 2K series has been pushed by a strong competitor (Sony stopped making its own basketball series and EA has been struggling to return NBA Live to its former standing for years), Zelnick said the developers don't take their success for granted.

"This was record first-week sell-in and we're excited about that; virtual currency sales are up 160% year-over-year," Zelnick said. "But if you sat with our creative team, they could give you a long list of things they feel we should be doing better, and we're focused on all of them. Every year we aim to delight consumers, every year we make progress, and every year we fall short a bit from our own point of view. So I think we have plenty of motivation to delight the consumer, internally."

But as games continue posting bigger and better numbers, so too do the expectations around them rise in lockstep. Zelnick said the return on investment for what constitutes a successful AAA game has only risen over time.

"For our successful titles, the ROI is very strong and getting stronger," Zelnick said. "And I think that's attributable to the fact that a few years ago, we'd make a title, market it, sell units, then sell catalog. And today, we offer opportunities for the consumer to engage after that release. And in many instances, we offer an opportunity to spend money after that release."

He added that has "unquestionably" made the industry more hit-driven.

"I said in 2008 or 2009 that good is the new bad. Standards are going up, and that's why our strategy always has been to be the most creative, innovative, and efficient company in the business," Zelnick said. "And more often than not, we are. Sometimes we fall short."

Take-Two met its expectations for the second quarter, posting net revenues up 21% to $420.2 million with net income of $36.4 million, down from $54.7 million in the year-ago quarter. The company also reported bookings up 28% to $452.8 million (well above the $400 million top-end range of its guidance) and non-GAAP net income of $50.7 million, down from $56.2 million the year before.

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Latest comments (3)

Rupert Loman Founder & CEO, Gamer Network4 years ago
Good results from 2K!

One thing: I don't really understand the review scores comment. On one hand there's the 62-69 Metacritic, but there's also the comment, "But the reviews, especially from those who matter, have been phenomenal.". Is that a reference to specific reviews being positive, or making the point that the consumer feedback was better [and more important] than the feedback from critics? (Genuinely interested to know!)
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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
My hunch is he means mainstream outlets like Washington Post and Forbes (which gave good reviews) as opposed to specialist press, but Brendan spoke to him so he'd have a better idea.
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Brendan Sinclair Managing Editor, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
When I spoke with him, I just thought he was saying the major sites gave it the best marks among reviewers. But given that the Metacritic scores top out around 80 (depending on the platform), and those top scores were often not from high-profile outlets, I think it can be interpreted as a bit of a dig at critics.
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