In the past few days, two of the largest companies in the industry have touted the number of games they have in the works. The Embracer Group (formerly THQ Nordic) and Take-Two Interactive both announced how many games they have in the pipeline.
Given the volume these companies are talking about, this is an interesting strategy change. And it's also a way to make things look a little rosy in the scary times we're in. These two companies will soon no longer have any really big games. By talking about the number of games in progress, companies can help investors feel safer.
Many of these games could be canceled and never see the light of day. But the nice thing is that we can look at these numbers and also see some patterns.
In a way, this title count is not informative. In certain cases, companies will spend a huge amount of time, money and resources on a single game. The fact that Take-Two is working on a lot of core experiences is helpful, but it doesn't say how many games from Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption 2 (titles with the highest quality) are in the works. However, comparisons can be instructive.
In 2008 Electronic Arts published 60 games. By 2017, when the strategy shifted to fewer and larger titles, EA only released eight games a year. And the magic of this transition: the 2017 games generated far more revenue than the 60 games released in 2008. And now EA has only announced five games for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. However, there are 13 consoles and PCs running games and 15 cell phone games because these “live services” just go on and players continue to buy things in them.
In short, this is a story about the change that free-to-play business models and the tremendous use of Triple-A games have brought to the industry. Many of the largest game companies have turned to this strategy.
So it's strange to see a bit of this reversal when both Embracer Group and Take-Two Interactive talk about the launch of so many games. So I took a moment to think about it.
Of course, most people who follow Take-Two only want to know one thing: when is Grand Theft Auto VI coming? Take-Two's Rockstar Games haven't said anything about it since GTAV closed in 2013. Rockstar launched Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018, so the impatient fans and investors just want to know when the big one is coming.
Take-Two's president, Karl Slatoff, said his company plans to release 93 titles over the next five years. These concern internal labels and external development studio partners, which means both large and small games. Sixty-seven of these will be paid games, while 26 will be free games.
Jeff Cohen, analyst at Stephens, a financial services firm, said in an email to GamesBeat: “Take-Two did this because people were looking for more insight into the longer-term pipeline (also known as when Grand Theft Auto VI is coming). Since they don't want to say it or maybe don't even know it, they have taken this path. "
Slatoff said 63 titles were core experiences, including 15 platform extensions to existing titles. Seventeen would be mid-core titles (hardcore in nature, with shorter session times), and 13 would be considered casual games. I would guess that the mid-core and casual games are mobile games.
Forty-seven of these games will come from existing franchises, and 46 would be new intellectual property. Seventy-two are planned for a combination of console, PC and streaming platforms. Seven would also be available for mobile devices, and 21 would be available specifically for mobile devices.
Take-Two has around 17 game studios with around 3,400 employees, without external game manufacturers. So you can look at that and conclude that it has about 36 employees per team. That would be really misleading, of course, since some titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 (released 2018) had 2,000 developers. However, some have only a handful as they may be part of a mobile team or an indie title released by Take-Two's new private division label for externally created games.
If there was a big title to talk about this year, Take-Two would probably disclose it.
"I think management wanted to bring some transparency into a more robust pipeline given this year's release," Colin Sebastian, analyst at RW Baird, said in an email to GamesBeat.
Embracer Group, formerly known as THQ Nordic, announced on Wednesday night that there were 118 games in development, including 69 unannounced titles. This is a measure of how large the game holding company located in Stockholm, Sweden has grown. It is one of the largest game manufacturers in Europe today.
The Embracer Group has five large subsidiaries with a total of 31 game studios and more than 3,500 employees and contractors. Large groups include Amplifier Game Invest, Coffee Stain Holding, Koch Media, THQ Nordic and the recently acquired Saber Interactive.
When you think about how unusual this activity is, an average of 29 people work on each game and an average of 112 people work in each studio. These are small teams by the standards of American Triple A companies, but they are large teams for indie games. And that's exactly what the Embracer Group has in its portfolio: a mix of large and small games.
In the coming fiscal year, the Embracer Group announced that there won't be a major Triple-A title, at least nothing comparable to last year's Metro Exodus. But never be afraid; Many games are in the works.