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Is Take-Two Making Promises It Can't Keep?

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Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) is making promises that it may be hoping it won't have to keep.

The cutting-edge video game publisher behind the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption franchises came through with softer-than-expected fiscal first-quarter results last night. Its outlook for the current quarter falls abysmally short of the pros' projections. 

However, Take-Two is still putting out surprisingly rosy projections for all of fiscal 2012 and promising a blowout fiscal 2013. Does Take-Two really see the light at the end of the tunnel, or is it hoping to lure Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) or Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) into a buyout?

Let's get into the ugly numbers first. Revenue fell 11% to $334.4 million, as the poorly received Duke Nukem Forever weighed down Take-Two's critically acclaimed L.A. Noire release. Margins got slaughtered, with last year's adjusted profit of $0.43 a share being whittled down to a mere $0.02 a share. Analysts were banking on a tweaked profit of $0.10 a share, on $352.9 million in revenue.

If you think that's bad, the current quarter will be even worse. Take-Two is targeting an adjusted loss of $0.55 to $0.65 a share on $70 million to $85 million in revenue. Wall Street's estimates call for a loss of $0.05 a share on $203 million in revenue.

These things happen in the video game industry. Revenue recognition practices and juggled release dates lead to lumpy performances from quarter to quarter. However, it seems odd that Take-Two is sticking to the guidance it initiated for all of fiscal 2012 three months ago. Take-Two still sees itself earning between $0.10 a share and $0.35 a share on $1 billion to $1.1 billion, for the current fiscal year ending next March. The company also believes it will earn more than $2 a share next fiscal year.

In an ideal world, Take-Two woul dbe telling the truth. Outside of releasing L.A. Noire for the PC and cranking out a licensed baseball game using Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) Nickelodeon characters, its release slate for the current quarter relies largely on low-profile digital releases. NBA 2K12 and other potential needle-movers won't be out until the second half of the fiscal year. Investors should already be looking forward to new installments in the BioShock and Borderlands franchises slated for fiscal 2013.

However, plans could get hairy if the NBA lockout continues, or if the company's sequels fall flat the way Duke Nukem Forever did this summer.

If Take-Two were ever looking for an exit strategy, now would be the ideal time to approach rival gamers -- or any media company looking for some skin in gaming -- to field offers. Its projections just don't seem realistic, and it may be time for Take-Two to use its potent franchises as intellectual capital while that's still worth something.

Take-Two is now three years removed from rebuffing EA's buyout offer. In retrospect, holding out for more was ill-advised. Let's see if the company can get it right this time -- hopefully before it has to answer to its unbelievably cheery forecasts a year or two from now.

Is a buyout Take-Two's best shot for serious capital appreciation? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Take-Two Interactive Software and Activision Blizzard. The Fool owns shares of and has written calls on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Take-Two Interactive Software and Activision Blizzard, as well as creating a synthetic long position in Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will admit to still playing video games, though finding time is the rub. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2011, at 7:56 PM, Zohl wrote:

    If there is one thing I have learned from watching Take-Two it is to just sit back and wait. For the wait is always worth it. If they say they have something up their sleeve I fully believe them.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2011, at 12:17 AM, jacobandersen72 wrote:

    imo, strauss zelnick's whole career is based on bluffing.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2011, at 12:22 AM, jacobandersen72 wrote:

    time to retire George Broussard.

    seriously dude. you been done since 1995.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2011, at 10:48 AM, breezious wrote:

    you failed to mention the new GTA game, which in all reality should be coming out within the next 18 months and you KNOW it will make the company profitable, not to mention bioshock, RDR, and borderlands.

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