Take Two stock surges 11% after earnings; CEO says ‘GTA V’ has sold nearly 100 million units

What may be the best-selling media title of all time is closing in on another milestone as Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. said late Thursday that “Grand Theft Auto V” sales are approaching 100 million units.

In the company’s fiscal first-quarter earnings call Thursday after the closing bell, Chief Executive Strauss Zelnick said “GTA V” continued to sell so well through the quarter that it, among other reasons, caused the company to raise its operational outlook for fiscal 2019. The company said it now expects earnings of 43 cents to 53 cents a share on net bookings of $500 million to $550 million.

“Remarkably, nearly five years after its initial release, ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ remains the standard-bearer for the current console generation,” Zelnick said on the earnings call with analysts.

Take-Two TTWO, +0.89% stock rose 12% in the extended session Thursday after posting a decline in total net bookings to $288.3 million from $348.3 million in the year-ago quarter. Take-Two, like many public videogame companies, uses net bookings in lieu of net sales because it accounts for digital sales and in-store physical sales, among other things. Net revenue also declined to $388 million from $418.2 million.

The company logged a more profitable fiscal first quarter with $71.7 million, which represents 62 cents a share, compared with profits of $60.3 million, or 56 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

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MarketWatch previously reported that after selling 90 million units, the game’s total haul was roughly $6 billion, earning more cash than blockbuster films such as “Star Wars” or “Gone With The Wind” would have earned, adjusted for inflation.

Since the controversial “GTA V” launched in 2013, it has continued to sell well quarter after quarter, in part benefiting from sales on two generations of gaming consoles. But “GTA V” has also benefited from investments that Take-Two has made over the years, especially with online content. At the game’s launch, the online portion looked to many critics like an afterthought, but it has become a reason for players to still buy and play the game. On the earnings call, executives said the company tends to make more money after significant updates.

Slated for an October launch, Zelnick said the highly anticipated “Red Dead Redemption 2” game is taking lessons from the success of “GTA V.” Unlike games prior to “GTA IV” — which was the first in the series to have downloadable content — now Take-Two’s successful titles represent a massive opportunity to create additional material to drive even more sales of each game. “That’s transformed our business, it’s up to 63% of our net bookings in the first quarter,” said Zelnick. “It’s nearly half our business in the last year.” He added that he was certain it would be reflected in “Red Dead Redemption 2.”

Read: Why there may never be a Netflix of videogames

Take-Two stock closed down 0.9% to $113.24 in regular trading and is up 3.2% this year, while the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.49% has gained 5.8%.

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