Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, and NBA 2K20 all contributed to huge sales for Take-Two Interactive. The publishing company reported record fourth-quarter net bookings of $729.4 million. That is up 49% compared to the same period from the prior year. Net bookings for the fiscal 2020 hit $2.99 billion, which is up from $2.93 billion in fiscal 2019. Take-Two emphasizes that COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders led to increased engagement and spending in its games.

Take-Two’s lineup of games were especially well-positioned for success for players sheltering in place. GTA Online, Red Dead Online, and NBA 2K all have highly active online components. They also have deeply ingrained microtransaction-based business models. And players showed up to spend on those in-game items. “Recurrent consumer spending” (as Take-Two calls in-game purchases) was up 34% for the publisher in fiscal 2020. And those purchases accounted for 51% of its total net bookings.

The company also reported annual earnings per share of $3.58, which is up from $2.95 per share in fiscal 2019.

“Our significantly better-than-expected fourth quarter results concluded another extraordinary year for Take-Two, during which we achieved numerous milestones,” Take-Two chief executive officer Strauss Zelnick said. “[That includes] record net bookings of nearly $3 billion, as well as record digitally-delivered net bookings, net bookings from recurrent consumer spending, and earnings. Nearly all of our titles outperformed in the fourth quarter, including NBA 2K20, Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Borderlands 3, and Social Point’s mobile games.”

VB Transform 2020 Online - July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream.

Take-Two also revealed that GTA V has surpassed more than 130 million copies sold. Red Dead Redemption 2 surpassed 21 million copies sold.

Survivor’s guilt

Take-Two has to walk something of a fine line here. The law obligates Take-Two to share its positive financial results. At the same time, more than 30 million Americans have filed first-time jobless claims since the middle of March. The economy is in a recession, and we can have an academic discussion about whether it’s in a depression.

So Take-Two also doesn’t look like it’s taking a victory lap while shouting “let them eat cake.” To get out ahead of that, the publisher already announced that it is donating 5% of its net bookings (minus platform fees) from most of its biggest games. That money will go to COVID-19-related charities. Zelnick also opened his conference call with investors with condolences for anyone who has lost someone to the virus.

Looking ahead for Take-Two

Beyond COVID-19, however, what is ahead for Take-Two? The company doesn’t plan a lot of new big releases over the next 10 months, but it says that won’t last forever.

“Looking ahead, Take-Two has the strongest development pipeline in its history, including sequels from our biggest franchises as well as exciting new IP,” said Zelnick. “While fiscal 2021 will be a light new release year, we expect to deliver strong results, reflecting the diversity and strength of our catalog and live service offerings. We have an array of titles that we will begin to launch in fiscal 2022, which we expect to drive sequential growth that year. Our company remains superbly positioned – creatively, operationally and financially – to capitalize on the many positive trends in our industry, and to deliver continued growth and returns for our shareholders over the long-term.”

Translated from the jargon of the management class: Take-Two is gonna sell you all the microtransactions you can stomach.

Take-Two expects net bookings between $2.55 billion to $2.65 billion for fiscal 2021. So Take-Two is expecting net bookings to decline, but this is still up from historic results for this point in the console life cycle.