GTA IV: Assessing The Damage
A guy got stabbed whilst waiting in line in Croydon to buy Grand Theft Auto IV. There was sort of an inevitable irony in that, excusing all of the real pain and suffering of the victim for a moment.
Elsewhere, two muggers shattered the jaw and nose of an 18-year-old man to steal his copy of the game just 30 minutes after he bought it in Leyland, Lancashire, says the ever level-headed Daily Mail.
What we find surprising about these happenings, and we’re sure there were many more, isn’t that they took place... After all, people get mugged, assaulted, stabbed, shot, run over, jacked, (…locked in basements…) on a more frequent basis than any of us would at all like. So, it’s not surprising that, on and around the time that GTA IV was released, Crimes Happened. No.
Also surprising is that the entire world hasn’t descended into anarchy. I walked out for lunch yesterday and decided I wasn’t going to toss that guy out of his car and borrow it for the trek. I didn’t notice anybody else on a one-person crime spree. Oh well. Another day, another government inquiry into the effect violence has on our streets, another crime, nothing to do with GTA IV. The Ban This Sick Filth parade that grinds its way through reams and reams of tabloid newspapers and reactionary web servers has done what it’s supposed to do and got some knickers into twists, and then the gamers have all gone home to quietly pretend to steal cars.
No Second Take On The Share Price
Another not-so-surprising result of the GTA IV launch is that Take-Two Interactive isn’t really in that much stronger of a bargaining position to prevent itself from being jacked by EA for anything less than $30 a share. The board of Take-Two has been trying to avoid getting bought by EA for its $26 a share offer.
Instead, they gave EA the runaround by fiddling the rules at their meeting of shareholders to exclude roughly half of them from taking part ; and refusing to talk to EA about the deal until after the release of their somewhat antihero-like Niko Bellic from Rockstar Penitentiary. The huge sales of GTA IV, figured Take-Two, would drive the share price up and force EA to up its offer.
Rather than do that, as punishment for the waiting, EA lowered its offer to $25.74 and told Take-Two to wait and see. And, as predicted, the market hasn’t given Take-Two more than 60-cents worth of a share price bump, the analysts saying that the huge predicted sales of GTA IV were already factored into the current share price. Eh-oh, as that gay Teletubby might say before attempting to subvert your child’s mind.
So now Take-Two has until midday on May 16 to decide what to do. They want more money. EA wants a bigger product portfolio (not just the big hit that is Grand Theft Auto... though it doesn’t hurt at all), but is that worth an extra $4 a share on the original offer ? Particularly after the release of GTA IV, the license to print $400 million in a week that it is, has failed to lift Take-Two’s share price anywhere near that on its own merits.
The Changing Face Of The Market
EA will likely raise its offer a little bit – the Take-Two share price did rise as far as $26.70 before settling at $26.63 on Tuesday – but more likely to $27 or maybe $28 a share. Take-Two’s shareholders should recognise a good deal and get out, because the gaming industry is waiting for a massive upheaval as the Activision-Blizzard merger becomes reality in June, upsetting the entire balance of the gaming industry ecosphere.
Developers, IPs and publishers alike are about to be snapped up, sold, moved around and reshuffled as companies reposition themselves to have a strong position going forward with some very lucrative gaming franchises – such as GTA – and some promising new ones – such as what Bioshock and Guitar Hero became – to see them through the next couple of years.
Take-Two can be a small-medium player that will likely be buffeted around and damaged (further than the company managed to damage itself with scandals and management changes in the past couple of years) before eventually being eaten up ; or it can take its strong position now, get a good price and become a part of the EA empire that will have to fight for the top spot on the podium against Acti-Blizzard.
Did We Mention It’s A Pretty Good Game... No ?
Back to GTA IV itself, if it won’t save Take-Two the ignominy of only being valued at around $2 billion or so it has proven that the video game industry can produce blockbusters to rival the established film and music industries. Yes, yes, yes, video game evangelicals have been telling us this since forever. But now we have the odd game – though it is an increasing number with each passing year – that actually manages to do major upset to the established industries.
The release of GTA IV this week will lower ticket sales of Iron Man, out on Friday May 2, says film industry analysts. In the past, films were compared to their peers when wondering about the impact competition will have on ticket sales. Now they’ll have to consider video games as well. GTA IV is expected to shift 6 million copies worth around $400 million in the week following its launch. It has broken all records, including that set by Halo 3 for the velocity of its rise to the top of the sales charts.
The betting firm Paddy Power is offering odds of 9/2 that the game will stay on the top of the UK sales charts for ten weeks ; odds of 6/4 that Wii Fit, released last week, will knock it off the number one spot ; with Mario Kart for the Wii the next favourite to do a Brutus. And to think, the summer is usually a dead period for video gaming. It seems we’ve got a multitude of entertaining titles that will take us all the way through to the Christmas run-in (that starts to gain momentum in September).
So, GTA IV will not save Take-Two and it hasn’t prompted a crime wave, though apparently some crime happened in the vicinity of copies of the game. It will stand as a good example as to how and why cinematic video games are, in future, going to give cinematic cinema films a run for their money. And it’s jolly good fun. A point, now that I think about it, which I make almost as an aside. This game certainly has gravitas.