Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO ) is ready for its money quarter.
The video game publisher posted better-than-expected quarterly results yesterday, but the real treat will come this quarter with September's retail release of the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V.
Take-Two's fiscal first quarter isn't all that spectacular on the surface. Adjusted net revenue plunged 36% to $144.3 million. The tweaked bottom line sports a loss of $0.54 a share -- far less than the prior year's red ink during the same period -- but a deficit is still a deficit.
The good news there is that analysts were holding out for a loss of $0.57 a share on just $124.7 million in revenue. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that Take-Two beat Wall Street's profit targets.
Take-Two boasts that digital revenue more than doubled to account for a record 52% of revenue, but don't expect that to continue. Absent marquee releases like last year's Max Payne 3 and Special Ops: The Line, gamers simply downloaded digital content for older titles during the fiscal first quarter that ended in June. That won't happen this quarter with Grand Theft Auto V dropping on September 17.
Take-Two is pumped up enough about its near-term prospects to boost its guidance. It now sees adjusted earnings of $2.25 a share to $2.50 a share on $1.775 billion to $1.875 billion in revenue for the entire year. That's marginally improved from the fiscal 2014 guidance that it issued in May, but analysts were already there. Wall Street's estimates call for a profit of $2.35 a share on $1.85 billion in revenue.
The gaming industry's in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) also posted a quarterly loss last week, though at least its top-line performance was flattish. When Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) reports tomorrow, it's expected to deliver sharp declines in revenue and earnings, but at least it will stand out as the only gaming company of the three to sport a profit.
Gamers are waiting for the new Xbox One and PS4 to hit the market in November, and developers are hoping that the more powerful consoles get industry sales moving in the right direction after years of declines at the retail level.
Take-Two is taking a gamble putting out its biggest release in more than five years just two months before the new systems hit the market, especially since the new platforms feature new chip architecture that won't make the Xbox One and PS4 organically compatible with earlier titles.
It won't be the only one tempting fate. Naturally, EA has another installment of its Madden franchise hitting stores in August, and Activision Blizzard is hoping to set new sales records when Call of Duty: Ghosts hits the market in November.
These are interesting times for the game makers, and there's plenty to lose if things don't pan out.
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