Take-Two Interactive's (TTWO 1.50%) Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR 2) is on store shelves and available for download after years of buildup, and it appears to be living up to the hype. The title boasts an average score of 97 out of 100 on review aggregator OpenCritic, with dozens of perfect and near-perfect ratings positioning it to be the most critically acclaimed game of the year. That's a welcome development for Take-Two shareholders, and suggests the game has a good chance of exceeding its lofty expectations.
Take-Two and Rockstar Games deliver on quality
Take-Two's Rockstar Games subsidiary, which is responsible for hit franchises like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto (GTA), has built a reputation as one of the most talented and consistent developers in the gaming industry. Its latest release will further solidify that reputation, with more than a handful of critics describing the title as a masterpiece, the developer's crowning achievement, and one of the best games ever.
Great reviews don't necessarily mean that a game will be a success, but for highly anticipated titles in established series, near-unanimous critical acclaim often points to strong staying power. Hype alone ensured that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be one of 2018's best-selling games, but the fact that Rockstar and Take-Two have once again delivered a standard-setting product suggests that the title is on track to be a sales powerhouse for years to come.
Shareholders should celebrate. Longevity is more important than ever in today's gaming industry, which often sees production budgets for triple-A games matching those of major Hollywood films, and in-game content sales as the key to delivering huge profits. What risk there was of RDR 2 falling flat after an initial burst of sales can probably be set aside.
Top-tier talent and a winning formula
Red Dead Redemption 2's fantastic critical reception not only indicates the game will be a strong seller after release, it also validates Take-Two and Rockstar's development model for big, triple-A titles. Being open to numerous and sometimes lengthy delays in order to deliver titles with meticulous attention to detail isn't without risk, but it's paying off for the company.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was originally scheduled for a holiday 2017 release, and then slipped to a spring 2018 launch window, before ultimately being moved to its Oct. 26 debut. Delays are almost invariably met with investor concerns about product quality and ballooning budgets, but Rockstar has repeatedly used extra development time to deliver products with the type of staying power that translates to post-release engagement and spending.
Grand Theft Auto V also had numerous delays but went on to receive stellar reviews and become one of the most commercially successful games ever. GTA V is uniquely successful in gaming history, but it provides a rough template for what to expect from Red Dead Redemption 2.
GTA V released on Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox One in 2013. It was then updated for release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2014 and received a PC version early in 2015. The game has now sold more than 100 million copies across all versions and continues to post strong unit sales and keep players engaged with its online mode.
Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't going to approach GTA V's sales numbers. But there's a good chance that it will blow past the roughly 15 million units that the original Red Dead Redemption sold and wind up being significantly more profitable thanks to a greater focus on the online multiplayer mode that will encourage ongoing consumer spending.
RDR 2, which is currently only available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, will almost certainly be released on PC as well, and it's a strong candidate to receive an updated release when the next generation of consoles arrives. With its widely and wildly acclaimed core experience, Red Dead Redemption 2 adds another classic to Take-Two's library that can be expanded and iterated upon.
The missing piece of the puzzle
While Rockstar took extra time to perfect the core single-player experience in RDR 2, players and investors are still waiting for a final, crucial piece to complete the package. As was the case with GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2's online mode isn't accessible upon release.
Gamers will have to wait until November to test out the game's multiplayer modes, and there's not much information available about what features will be available and how Rockstar will develop and expand upon the title's online modes beyond that window.
But with RDR 2's core gameplay getting rave reviews and Rockstar likely to incorporate elements that helped make GTA V's online mode hugely successful, investors can look forward to Take-Two's latest release acting as a performance driver for the next several years.