Grand Theft Auto 5

It’s now six months until spring 2013 and the end of publisher Take-Two Interactive’s fiscal year. Yet we still don’t have a release date for the company’s highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V, and that’s causing some analysts to doubt the open-world action game can make its predicted first-quarter 2013 release.

“We see increasing risk to the presumed March release window,” Baird Equity Research software analyst Colin Sebastian told GamesBeat. “I believe the retail and distribution channels need time to prepare for a launch of this magnitude.”

The last time we spoke with analysts about Grand Theft Auto, they were confident that the game would hit before the end of March due to the pressure the company was under from the predictions it made for the financial year.

“The company’s guidance [for the year] calls for over $1 billion in revenue contribution from [subsidiary] Rockstar Games,” Wedbush Morgan software analyst Michael Pacther told GamesBeat in an email interview. “Max Payne 3 did around $150 million, catalog sales will be another $150 million, and digital sales maybe produce another $50 million. They will miss [$1 billion] by a mile if GTA doesn’t come out.”

Pachter is pointing out that, between Max Payne 3 and Rockstar’s other sales, it is still $650 million short of what Take-Two predicted the developer would make before the end of March. That’s a huge hole that will be difficult to revise with investors.

“To be honest, they could be launching the game next month and have some perverse strategy that they don’t need to let anyone know until the last minute,” Pachter said. “They were supposedly done with voice over work a year ago, so it might be coming out soon.”

Or it could be coming later in 2013.

The point is that a lack of a solid date is causing uncertainty. Barring some surprise-attack strategy as Pachter mentioned, the longer this uncertainty persists, the more unlikely a pre-April release seems.

“In the past, the lack of a date might not have been remarkable, but now it’s meaningful,” Endpoint Technologies Associates, Inc. analyst Robert Kay told GamesBeat. “Meaningful, but not definitive.”

Sebastian believes that if the crime-simulating Rockstar game does slip into the next fiscal year it could cause a significant dip in the Take-Two stock, but it should bounce back when the studio finally does announce the title. “Rockstar prioritizes quality over release timing,” Sebastian said.

We know that’s true, and as nice as it would be for Take-Two if it nailed its financials, its more important for the company to protect the value of the Grand Theft Auto property. An unfinished release could do long-term damage to the publisher’s outlook.

[vb_gallery id=516352]