The Bad News Wares Learn to Win

It seems as if the Bad News Wares -- the pet name I've given to the folks at troubled entertainment software company Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) -- are finally starting to string together some good news for a change. The company set a Halloween release date for its controversial Manhunt 2 game this morning.

You may recall that the publisher pulled the horror title two months ago, after being slapped around by several global ratings boards. The new version is cleaner -- rated M for Mature, instead of the more restrictive AO for Adults Only -- and it comes at a time when Take-Two can use a hit to help offset the delay of its larger Grand Theft Auto IV game.

However, Manhunt 2 may have company when it comes time to raise a toast at the Take-Two holiday party. This week's release of the company's BioShock game has won critical praise. Reviewers aren't the game's only appreciators, since it's the top-selling video game on Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) this morning. And it's the third best-selling game at GameStop (NYSE: GME  ) , trailing only Halo 3 pre-orders and the latest Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) installment in the Madden football series.

Fans of Ayn Rand may not appreciate how her Objectivist philosophy is portrayed as a Utopian killjoy in BioShock, but what else is new? Take-Two typically favors notoriety over warm fuzzies in its shoot-'em-up titles.

The surprising success of BioShock, coupled with the now retailer-friendly release of Manhunt 2 in two months, should find analysts scrambling to revise Take-Two's prospects higher over the next two quarters.

It's a welcome contrast to the thick pessimism that coated the company earlier this month. When Take-Two bumped the autumn release of Grand Theft Auto IV to as late as next April, there seemed to be little reason to get excited about the company's near-term prospects.

It's funny how times change. The publisher has gone from losing its flagship title to replacing it with two promising fill-ins. It won't be enough to offset the guaranteed success of GTA4. That franchise is so huge that Take-Two got Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) to pay at least $50 million for a pair of episodic add-ons to the game, exclusively for Xbox 360 users.

Still, I've seen enough. I'm ready to give Take-Two the benefit of the doubt. At the very least, someone hand me a shovel; I need to bury the "Bad News Wares" moniker.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has played a few of the Grand Theft Auto games, though he's never been much of a carjacker. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy is rated E for everyone.


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