"Grand Theft Auto" first-week sales top $500 mln
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc scored over $500 million in global sales of criminal action game "Grand Theft Auto 4" in its first week, marking what it called one of the most lucrative entertainment events in history.
The video game publisher, which is facing an unsolicited takeover offer from rival Electronic Arts Inc, said Wednesday that it sold about 3.6 million units globally at the game's debut on April 29, and some 6 million units in total in the week.
Take-Two has held off on engaging EA until after the "GTA 4" launch, arguing the returns from that game should be a factor in its value.
Some analysts doubted the sales figure released on Wednesday would prod EA to offer much more than its $25.74 per share tender to shareholders. That offer expires on May 16.
Take-Two shares edged slightly higher on Wednesday morning, rising 5 cents to $26.40 on Nasdaq.
"They were better than the published expectations. I would say they were marginally better than the whisper number," said Todd Mitchell of Kaufman Bros, who recently lowered his rating on the stock to a "hold" from "buy."
"I don't think that many people buy the idea that just because you blow the numbers out on GTA, EA is going to come out with a higher bid," he said.
Daniel Ernst, an analyst with Hudson Square Research, said the GTA results came in above industry expectations of $400 million and showed Take-Two was on track to meet his expectation for total unit sales of 13 million through the end of the calendar year.
"It means the level of premium edition sales was a lot greater than anyone expected, and all of that flows to the bottom line," said Ernst, who has a $30 price target for Take-Two and sees room for EA to raise its bid.
"If you were buying this company four years ago, you were really just buying GTA," he said. "Now you're getting this plus four other parts of the business that are fixed, or mostly fixed."
Retail chains such as GameStop Corp and Best Buy Co Inc had been taking advance orders for weeks on GTA 4, which has been lavished with accolades by game reviewers and users.
The first-week sales of GTA, a game hailed as a brutal and satirical masterpiece equal to films like "The Godfather," beat the $300 million for last year's "Halo 3" from Microsoft Corp.
"Grand Theft Auto IV's first week performance represents the largest launch in the history of interactive entertainment, and we believe these retail sales levels surpass any movie or music launch to date," said Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two, in a statement.
Made by Take-Two's Rockstar studio, the game casts the player as an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes after falling in with a crime syndicate -- content that has drawn fire from family groups and politicians.
(Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg)
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