Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Grand Theft Auto IV Delay

Two theories have emerged for the delay of GTA IV into 2008.

The first comes from Michael Pachter:
Analyst Michael Pachter believes Rockstar has delayed the release of Grand Theft Auto IV because it is struggling with development on the PlayStation 3.

..."We think it is likely that the Rockstar team had difficulty in building an exceptionally complicated game for the PS3, and failed to recognise how far away from completion the game truly was until recently," said Pachter.

"We think it is also likely that Take-Two had a contractual commitment to Sony that it would not favour competitor Microsoft by launching the Xbox 360 version of GTA IV prior to launching the PS3 version, and believe that any delay of the PS3 version necessitated a delay of the Xbox 360 version," he added.

The second theory comes from N'Gai Croal:
Until earlier this week, when a source informed us that Microsoft had sent a shock team of engineers to help Rockstar complete the game, much of the gossip surrounding problems with GTA IV centered around the Playstation 3 version.

We believe that Rockstar is having difficulty with both versions of the game, not just the PS3. GTA IV executive Sam Houser basically said as much in the press release, "The game is huge and is pushing the hardware platforms to their absolute limits. The top engineers from Sony and Microsoft are working closely with the team in Edinburgh right now, helping us to fully leverage the power of both platforms." That was echoed by Zelnick on the conference call, who said, " There are technical challenges across the board on both PS3 and 360." If Rockstar could have completed the 360 version in time for its previously scheduled October release, it would have done so. Why? Because Take-Two definitely needs the revenue from what is by far its biggest franchise, and Microsoft desperately wanted to convert PlayStation 2 fans to Xbox 360 aficionados.

With a $50 million deal already in place for two downloadable follow-up episodes exclusive to the Xbox 360, it's likely that Microsoft and Take-Two/Rockstar also had a co-marketing arrangement in place, where Microsoft and Take-Two would spend an equal amount of money to promote GTA IV, in exchange for Microsoft getting to slap its logo at the end of all of those costly TV ads. In fact, it wouldn't surprise us if Rockstar and Take-Two had already all-but-delayed the PS3 version to triage the Xbox 360 version for this holiday, only to have their hands forced when, at yesterday's product review, it became clear to both sides that even the 360 version could not be completed this year to Rockstar's exacting standards.

N'Gai 1, Michael 0.

It makes no sense to me that Microsoft would pay $50M for extra content, yet agree to have their fate tied to the PS3 version.

Of course, I never thought the PS3 version would ship this year, because I thought it was going to be sacrificed so that the 360 version could ship on time. I don't know anyone who thought both versions would make it this year. But I don't think many people thought that both versions would be delayed, because Take-Two needs the revenue so badly.

What's so incredibly ironic about Take-Two is that they publish some truly excellent games, but they're staggering as a company. It's entirely possible that they'll have the Game of the Year for 2006 (Oblivion), 2007 (Bioshock), and possibly even 2008 (GTA IV), yet their future as a company always seems tenuous.

I believe we'll find out more within the next few weeks. Someone will start pointing fingers.

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