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商业 - 科技

《侠盗飞车》开发商渴望新生活

Chip Lebovitz 2012年09月27日

推出过热门游戏《侠盗飞车》的视频游戏公司Take-Two刚刚发布了《无主之地2》。Take-Two寄希望新的游戏能产生积极的财务效应,同时能成为自己的另一明星系列,一举超越《侠盗飞车》。不过,Take-Two可能会空欢喜一场。

    《无主之地2》的截图

    2012年本应该是视频游戏商Take-Two Interactive大获丰收的一年。今年初,作为游戏界的传统重量级作品,《马克思•佩恩》(Max Payne)系列的最新作品《马克思•佩恩3》被寄予厚望。但事与愿违,虽然游戏好评如潮,Take-Two也对其进行了公司史上最大规模的市场营销活动,但这款耗时八年打造的游戏仍陷入叫好不叫座的尴尬境地。

    Take-Two近来时运不佳。截至7月份,公司已连续第二季度没能达到分析师的预期。《侠盗飞车5》(Grand Theft Auto V)的上市遥遥无期,该系列是Take-Two最富盛名也是最赚钱的产品。Take-Two不得不把希望都寄托在计划于本周上市的科幻西部射击游戏《无主之地2》(Borderlands 2)上。

    Take-Two公司同时希望《无主之地》能帮助该公司减少对《侠盗飞车》的依赖。虽然缺乏新作上市,但《侠盗飞车》系列游戏的销售额仍然占据了Take-Two 公司2012财年净收入的14%。截至2011年9月,《侠盗飞车》系列的总销量比Take-Two其它游戏销量总和还要高出2,000万份,是Take-Two第二畅销游戏系列的销量的六倍多。

    《侠盗飞车》系列取得了巨大成功,其研发工作室Rockstar Games也水涨船高,获得了独一无二的开发话语权。Rockstar的开发周期相当漫长(最近一部《侠盗飞车》游戏于2008年上市),无疑推高了Take-Two的总体研发费用。

    韦德布什证券(Wedbush Securities)分析师迈克尔•帕切称:“(Rockstar)那帮人总是幻想自己是詹姆斯•卡梅隆(好莱坞导演,代表作有《泰坦尼克号》、《阿凡达》等——译注)。一般的游戏工作室三年就可以开发出一部作品;不过,Rockstar并不是这样。”虽然他们的游戏总是备受好评,但这并不能保证销量。看看《马克思•佩恩3》就知道了。

    不过,《无主之地2》的成功至少能Take-Two在第二财季缓口气。帕切预计《无主之地》的销售额将占据Take-Two季度营收的54%。更为重要一点是,《无主之地》系列有望成为该公司另一个长期而稳定的收入来源。

    《无主之地2》于今年9月上市,距离第一版上市不到3年的时间。这款游戏有望大卖特卖。咨询公司Cowen and Company分析师道格•克鲁兹认为,《无主之地》或将成为Take-Two的第三大标杆作品,前两款作品分别是《侠盗飞车》和意大利式西部射击游戏《荒野大镖客》。克鲁兹称:“(上季度)的焦点在Take-Two不尽如人意的营收,这点我们都心知肚明。《无主之地2》的热销会让大家心满意足。”

    视频游戏调研公司VGChartz的数据显示,《无主之地2》首周即在美国毫无压力地达到100万销量,是《马克思•佩恩3》首周销量的两倍多。

    《无主之地》系列能大获成功的部分原因在于其融合了两大流行视频游戏类型——第一人称射击和角色扮演。Take-Two首席技术官卡尔•斯莱特奥夫在7月31日的营收电话会议上说:“(《无主之地2》)是一款非常独特的游戏。目前还没有类似的作品。这对我们而言是一个大好机会。”

    自8月1日以来,Take-Two的股票已累计上涨超过35%,这至少反映出资本市场颇为看好《无主之地》系列。不过,虽然《无主之地2》有大红大紫的潜力,但它仍然难以扭转Take-Two的颓势。

    投资公司BMO Capital的分析师爱德华•威廉姆斯称,Take-Two和第三方工作室Gearbox一同开发和发行《无主之地2》,无疑降低了前者的利润。视频游戏行业的利润本就大不如前,而《无主之地2》的营收中归Take-Two的比例也降低了。调研机构NPD则表示,8月份的行业销售额下滑了20%,部分原因在于玩家们正在等待下一代游戏机上市。

    Take-Two还必须摆脱《侠盗飞车》的阴影。投资公司Ascendiant Capital Markets的分析师爱德华多•胡称:“Take-Two是《侠盗飞车》公司。虽然该公司的其它作品也不错,但影响力与《侠盗飞车》还无法相提并论。”

    译者:项航

    2012 was supposed to be a banner year for video game maker Take-Two Interactive. The spring was supposed to mark the triumphant return of Max Payne, one of the gaming world's traditional heavyweight franchises. But positive reviews, eight years of development, and one of the company's largest marketing campaigns ever couldn't convince gamers to purchaseMax Payne 3, the franchise's latest installment.

    Take-Two (TTWO) had had a rough go of it lately, and in July the company missed analyst's estimates for the second straight quarter. With no release date in sight for Grand Theft Auto V -- the latest sequel to the company's best-known and most profitable franchise -- Take-Two must rely on space western shooter Borderlands 2, which hits shelves this week.

    Take Two is also likely hoping that Borderlands can help the company rely a little bit less onGrand Theft Auto. Despite the lack of updates to the franchise, Grand Theft Auto product sales accounted for almost 14% of the company's net revenue in fiscal year 2012. As of September 2011, Grand Theft Auto titles had sold 20 million more units then the rest of Take-Two's catalogue combined. That's over six times the number of games sold by Take-Two's second most successful franchise.

    This unbridled success has given Grand Theft Auto's in-house developer, Rockstar Games, free reign over the studio's development process. Rockstar takes a considerable amount of time between releasing its games (the latest Grand Theft Auto game was released in 2008), driving up Take-Two's overall development costs.

    "[Rockstar] fancy themselves James Cameron in everything they do," says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, "Everyone gets a game out in three years; Rockstar doesn't follow these rules…." And while the studio's games are consistently praised, they aren't guaranteed financial successes. Rockstar produced Max Payne 3.

    At the very least, the success of Borderlands 2 will make or break Take-Two's second quarter. Pachter estimates that Borderlands sales to account for 54% of the company's quarterly revenue. More importantly though is the Borderlands franchise's potential as another long-term source of revenue for the company.

    Borderlands 2's September release date comes a little under three years after the original game was published. The game also has major hit potential. Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz sees Borderlands as a potential third anchor franchise for Take-Two, along with Grand Theft Auto and the Red Dead franchises, a series of spaghetti western shooters. "[Last quarter] the focus was on the missing earnings, everyone knows that," Creutz says, "One big hit [Borderlands 2] can pay for everything."

    According to the video game research firm VGChartz, Borderlands 2 is on pace to rack up over 1 million United States unit sales in its first week. That's over double the first-week U.S sales of Max Payne 3.

    Part of Borderlands' potential success has to do with its blend of two popular video game genres, first person shooters and role-playing games. "[Borderlands 2] is a very unique title," Take-Two COO Karl Slatoff said on the company's July 31 earnings call, "There's nothing else like it out there. It's a great window for us."

    Take-Two's stock has soared over 35% since August 1, reflecting, at least in part, growing enthusiasm about Borderlands. Still, despite its hit potential, Borderlands 2 isn't a perfect fit for a Take-Two turnaround game.

    Take-Two must also escape the considerably large shadow of Grand Theft Auto. "Take-Two is aGrand Theft Auto company," say Edward Woo, an analyst at Ascendiant Capital Markets. "While the other games are useful, they don't have as much of an impact."

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