Red Dead Redemption 2 hits 17M sold-in as Take-Two CEO supports Rockstar's workplace culture

Strauss Zelnick tells GameDaily that Rockstar remains a "great place to work" while avoiding crunch talk.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has already set entertainment records for Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games, generating $725 million in revenue at launch. Today, along with its second-quarter earnings report, which revealed incredibly strong recurrent consumer spending for GTA Online, GTA V (now sold-in over 100M) and NBA 2K19, the company confirmed that Red Dead 2 has managed to sell-in 17 milllion units worldwide, which far outpaces the original Red Dead Redemption's lifetime sales (around 15 million in eight years).   

Take-Two and investors are thrilled of course, and Red Dead's impact isn't even factored into the second quarter that was just reported. But with all the success, many can't help but think about the man-hours that went into creating Rockstar's blockbuster. The stories surrounding crunch were hard to avoid in the lead-up to the game's release and even critics had to keep the comments about "culture of fear" in their minds as they reviewed the title. So what does the head of Take-Two think about all this? Did any of it taint an otherwise amazing entertainment event?

When asked by GameDaily today, CEO Strauss Zelnick replied, "Rockstar commented extensively on the issue. I don't think there's much to add to it. I would say that I'm incredibly proud of Rockstar Games. There are more than 2,000 members of the team who did a fantastic job bringing Red Dead Redemption 2 to audiences around the world.

"Rockstar is a great place to work. It's a place that values creativity and talent more than almost any other place on Earth. I stand behind the label, the executives and their approach."

Take-Two has always been known for giving its various labels and studios a ton of autonomy to run things as they see fit, which helps to ensure a healthy amount of creativity at Rockstar, 2K Games and others in the organization. But when it comes to other policies, towards crunch or culture in general, should it come from the top-down? Zelnick didn't go that far but did say that the culture at Take-Two is very much shared.

"Look, we have a common culture and shared views and aligned interests, both personal and economic. Certainly, our creative interests are aligned. We all work within the same enterprise. I think there's a great deal of commonality of culture and I'm really proud of that, which is why I said I stand behind the [Rockstar] label and their approach," he noted. 

From a financial perspective, Red Dead 2 is a soaring success, and it could just be getting started, as the impending launch of Red Dead Online could have a similar effect that GTA Online did for GTA V. That's undoubtedly a template for recurrent revenue and the real test for Red Dead's longevity is coming up, as analysts already told GameDaily. 

"I think the analysts are right that [longevity] is the question that has to be answered. Our approach always is to outline what we're doing and then refrain from claiming victory unless and until it occurs," Zelnick said. "We certainly feel like we're well positioned for success. Beyond that we'll have to see what the consumer says, and that'll be driven by how the consumer feels about what we bring them."

Did Take-Two learn from the consumer behavior around GTA V and GTA Online? "Absolutely, we're always learning from our experience across all of our labels, across all of our game titles. At the end of the day, it's all about delivering great content that consumers have fun with. It's as simple to say and as hard to do as that," Zelnick noted.

Overall in the second quarter, Take-Two saw its GAAP net revenue grow 11 percent to $492.7 million, while digitally-delivered net revenue grew 18 percent to $358.4 million and accounted for 73 percent of total net revenue. Interestingly, Take-Two did tell GameDaily that it's expecting 30 percent of the current-gen console games to be digitally delivered moving forward. The publisher's GAAP net income for the quarter also increased to $25.4 million, compared with a net loss of $2.7 million a year earlier.

Thanks to the impact of Red Dead, Take-Two has raised its fiscal year outlook as well. The company expects profit between $202 and $232 million on revenues from $2.55 to $2.65 billion.

Editor-in-Chief

James has been covering the games industry since the early 2000s and was most recently the editor of GamesIndustry.biz. He loves Zelda, Metroidvania-style games, action adventure and single-player narratives. He's also the proud father of twin boys and is obsessed with good coffee and Yankees baseball. You can reach him @bright_pixels on Twitter or you can email him at james.brightman@gamedaily.biz.