Fortnite has taken the gaming world by storm, and now Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto parent company Take-Two Interactive has responded yet again to the game’s success. During an earnings call today, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick doubled down on what he said before: you don’t become an industry leader by following what other teams have done before you.
Speaking to analysts, Zelnick said he doesn’t expect his studios–2K Games and Rockstar Games–to follow in the footsteps of Fortnite and PUBG.
“I think if one changed one’s business to follow other people’s big hits, you’d be constantly playing catch up,” he said. “And to say you wouldn’t be in second place is an understatement. You might remain in last place. So it’s our job to innovate, and more often than not that has driven our success.”
Previously, Zelnick spoke about how Take-Two is certainly aware of Fortnite’s success, he would rather have his studios push forward with new ideas instead of being “derivative” of something that came before. Rockstar is dipping its toes in the battle royale space with GTA Online, which added a battle royale mode called Motor Wars in 2017. And just this week, Rockstar added another battle royale-inspired mode called Trap Door.
Zelnick added that what Fortnite’s success shows is that some of the most successful games are the ones people don’t see coming. As an example, Zelnick pointed out that some industry-watchers said Red Dead Redemption wouldn’t succeed because Westerns had fallen out of favour. But of course, that game was a smash hit, and the sequel due this year is expected to be a massive success as well.
“Maybe the biggest learning [from Fortnite] is just the reinforcement of the fact that big hits by their very nature are unexpected. What drives a big hit is innovation not derivation,” he said. “That’s what we’re proud of around here. When we put out Red Dead Redemption, the conventional wisdom was that western titles do not work in the video game business–and Red Dead Redemption was a big hit and we have extremely high expectations for Red Dead Redemption 2.
“So I think the fact that Fortnite surprised everyone, particularly given where Fortnite came from–after all, what is now in the market is based on a prior release that did not perform all that well. It’s just a reflection of the fact that if you innovate and give consumers what they want, you can get an extraordinary result. And while we would love to corner the market in hits, and we certainly see it as our job to do so, we don’t have all of the hits and we shouldn’t expect to.”
As Zelnick alluded to, Fortnite began its life as a paid game called Fortnite: Save the World, with the free-to-play Battle Royale iteration coming years later.
Also during the call, Zelnick said another thing Fortnite has made clear is that free-to-play as a business model has been “transformative” for gaming and helping to increase the reach of gaming overall.
“The free-to-play revolution, if you will, whether that’s mobile or fixed, has been transformative for the business,” he said. “It’s massively increased the size of the business. There are a lot people who think Fortnite has welcomed into our industry people who didn’t previously play video games. Some of that is anecdotal; it’s hard to know, but I think some of that is right. This is all good news.”
Take-Two already has a substantial free-to-play business through games released in China and through its relatively recent acquisition of mobile game studio Social Point. While free-to-play is an important part of Take-Two’s business, Zelnick stressed that big-budget, narrative-driven, and highly polished juggernauts like GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2 remain “terribly important” to Take-Two as a business.
In other Take-Two news, the company announced today that a new game from 2K–potentially a new Borderlands or BioShock–has been delayed. 2K will be at E3 2018 next month, but as of yet we don’t know what the company plans to show off or discuss at the event.