By Mia Lamar
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. on Thursday said it won't release "Grand Theft Auto V" until September, delaying the launch of a high-profile title that players and investors have been awaiting for years.
Originally slated for release this spring, "Grand Theft Auto V" will now be released on Sept. 17., more than five years after the game's previous iteration was launched. Take-Two said in November that the franchise has sold more than 125 million units over its lifespan.
Investors voiced their disapproval, sending the stock down much as 12% Thursday. Shares recovered some, last trading down 4.9% to $12.42.
The company said the release was moved to September to "allow additional development time." A Take-Two spokesman declined to provide additional details, though the game's developer, Rockstar Games, issued an apology to players on its official blog.
"We know this is about four months later than originally planned, and we know that this short delay will come as a disappointment to many of you, but, trust us, it will be worth the extra time," the post read. Rockstar in November 2011 first acknowledged it was working on the game.
Delays are commonplace across the videogame industry, adding further unpredictability to an industry that is also battling rising competition from less-expensive mobile games and shaky consumer confidence.
Take-Two also has struggled to keep pace with a broad industry shift toward massive multiplayer games, which bring together dozens or hundreds of players. "Grand Theft Auto V" will be the first time the franchise incorporates massive multiplayer functionality, one likely reason for the delay, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson.
A release this spring, as originally expected, would have left "Grand Theft Auto V" without a major competing title for months. Rival Activision Blizzard Inc. is expected to release a new iteration of its popular war-simulation franchise "Call of Duty" in November. Players also are hoping for a new "Battlefield" title from Electronic Arts Inc. by year's end.
The delayed release date "does put them into more direct competition with major titles in the fall, but ultimately I don't think it's going to materially change demand," Mr. Olson said.
Delays and a dearth of new titles have made for unpredictable earnings at Take-Two, which in October slashed its full-year outlook after posting three straight quarterly losses. The company is expected to report fiscal-third-quarter results on Feb. 5.
That unpredictability is one reason why Brean Capital analyst Todd Travis Mitchell has stayed to the sidelines on the stock.
"How do I value this company when there's never been anything like normalized earnings?" Mr. Mitchell said, adding that Take-Two makes good games but is "still stuck in a movie studio model."
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