Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive Software reported earnings today that obliterated Wall Street’s expectations for the third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31.
Take-Two reported non-GAAP earnings per share of $1.87 per share (up 10 percent from a year ago) on revenue of $954 million (up 24 percent).
Analysts had expected Take-Two to report non-GAAP third fiscal quarter earnings per share of $1.52 and revenue of $798 million. They also expected Take-Two to report fourth-fiscal guidance of $1.35 to $1.45 a share and revenues of $745 million to $760 million.
The publisher can thank Grand Theft Auto V, developed by Rockstar Games and published by New York-based Take-Two, for this, as it’s become one of the best-selling games of all time. It has sold 45 million copies on all platforms so far, with 10 million of those coming on the PS4 and Xbox One.
Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a research note before the earnings came out that he expected the company to blow past earnings estimates thanks to strong sales of GTA V and NBA 2K15.
He wrote that GTA V “benefitted from outstanding reviews, the debut of first person mode, and its inclusion in the PS4 Black Friday bundle, essentially as a free pack-in. We now expect FY:15 Grand Theft Auto V sell-in to exceed the high-end of the 5 million to 7 million unit range implied by guidance.”
He said the market is looking forward to the launches of Evolve, GTA V for the PC, and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.
Arvind Bhatia, an analyst at Sterne Agee, wrote in a research note before the earnings that he expected Take-Two to beat consensus estimates thanks to better sales of GTA V. But he said the coming year lacks visibility, and as a result he estimates that fiscal 2016 results will be $1.10 a share, or 19 percent below where the consensus of analysts is right now.
“We think consensus earnings per share would be achievable if the company were to announce a new AAA title with about 10 million unit sales potential, such as the next title in the Red Dead series, or a couple of medium-sized titles, such as Midnight Club or Max Payne, but this is currently unknown,” Bhatia wrote.
Key games that Take-Two released during the quarter were: NBA 2K15, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Civilization: Beyond Earth, BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition, Grand Theft Auto V for Xbox One/PS4, and WWE 2K15.
Bhatia expects full-year digital revenue of $450 million, up 3 percent from last year. Actual digital game revenue was up 64 percent to $217 million in the quarter.
“The success of franchises such as GTA, Red Dead, NBA 2K, Civilization, Borderlands, Bioshock, Max Payne, and Midnight Club has been well documented,” Bhatia wrote. “The company’s Rockstar Studio, which is behind the company’s biggest franchises such as GTA and Red Dead, is a well-known brand among gamers and signifies quality. ”
For the fourth fiscal quarter, Take-Two predicted it will have non-GAAP net revenue of $410 million to $460 million, and non-GAAP net income per share of 15 cents to 25 cents. For the full fiscal year, it expects non-GAAP revenue of $1.65 billion to $1.70 billion and non-GAAP net income per share of $1.65 to $1.75.
Take-Two said it looks forward to the debut of Evolve and Grand Theft Auto V for the PC.
It also said it expects to launch Battleborn, an all-new multiplayer online game developed for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC by Borderlands’ creators, Gearbox Software, during fiscal 2016. In addition, we can expect new, annual releases from NBA 2K and WWE 2K as well as some unannounced titles.
The company said that it expects to launch Civilization Online, a new massively multiplayer online game, in partnership with XL Games for the Korean market. It will also explore launching it in other Asian countries.
Take-Two said that its WWE SuperCard title has been downloaded nearly 6 million times since August and that NBA 2K Online in China has nearly 24 million registered users.
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