The final tally of video-game sales for 2013 is in, and Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO ) stole the show. The video-game maker beat out much bigger rivals Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) and Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) to finish as the top publisher of the year, according to research firm NPD.
Of course, Take Two had a huge assist from its new Grand Theft Auto title, which marked the first major release in the franchise in five years. Grand Theft Auto V enjoyed the most successful launch of an entertainment property in history when it came out in September. It's no wonder then that the game ended 2013 comfortably in first place.
Still, Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts game turned in a respectable showing, even winning the holiday season. But a strong December for Ghosts just couldn't overcome GTA V's massive start: The shooter ended the year in second place, followed by two EA blockbusters, Madden NFL 25 and Battlefield 4.
From there, Take Two's 2K studios chipped in the other two hits that pushed the publisher into first place for the year: NBA 2K 14 and Bioshock Infinite.
NBA 2K 14 is the latest chapter in a franchise that has been the top-ranked basketball brand for 13 years running. NBA 2K 14 kept that streak alive this year, logging an 85 (out of 100) score on Metacritic. The sports simulation finished 2013 as the sixth best-selling video game on the market.
But Bioshock Infinite was an even bigger critical hit for Take-Two. It notched a stellar Metacritic score of 94. IGN's glowing review of the title was typical of most of the critical opinions: The gaming site called it "a brilliant shooter that nudges the entire genre forward." Infinite has kicked in some solid digital sales for Take-Two as well, with add-on content for the game helping push digital sales to 60% of total revenue -- up from 20% a year ago.
However, as well as Take-Two did last year, I wouldn't bet on seeing the company score a repeat in 2014. Sure, the publisher has a number of unannounced games slated for release on the next-generation consoles in the next year. But none of those titles is likely to be as successful as GTA V has been. Meanwhile, Activision and EA are putting the final touches on two of the most anticipated games of 2014. EA's Titanfall, and Activision's Destiny both look set to become multi-year, tentpole franchises for these game makers and should help them knock Take-Two off its perch this year.
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Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated that Grand Theft Auto V was released in November. The Fool regrets the error.