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Here's Why Take-Two's Worth a Second Look

By Brandy Betz – Feb 13, 2014 at 5:00PM

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Take-Two Interactive's shares dropped after a positive earnings report. How does the company compare to Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts?


Take-Two Interactive (TTWO -0.50%) reported positive fourth-quarter results last week -- and its shares promptly dropped by nearly 10%. The company's hot off the record-breaking launch of Grand Theft Auto V and beat revenue estimates, but it suffered the same investor dash that afflicted Electronic Arts (EA -1.11%) while Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) stood alone with a share-price boost. Why won't investors take to Take-Two?    

Analysts had estimated that Take-Two would report revenue of $709 million with earnings per share of $1.40.  Take-Two beat both estimates by reporting $767.7 million in revenue and EPS of $1.70.  That wasn't enough to rally investors -- but that could prove a mistake.  

Here's why Take-Two is worth a second look.  

Stretching out the best-sellers 
Take-Two excels at stretching out the monetization of its games long after their initial releases through a combination of digital content and new packaging. Borderlands 2, for example, continues to release new material more than a year after its release. That focus paid off for Take-Two as its digital content revenue in the third quarter grew 42% year-over-year to $133 million. Take-Two now has a record-breaking game to extend. 

Grand Theft Auto V released in mid-September to $800 million in sell-through in the first 24 hours. Sell-through is a video game sales metric that means the game was actually sold to a customer whereas sell-in refers to a game sold to a retailer. That number jumped to $1 billion within three days and GTA V ended 2013 as the best-selling game of the year, according to NPD Group. To date, the title has sold more than 32 million units globally.More content will follow for the title via downloadable content. 

GTA V was also supplemented by the launch of Grand Theft Auto Online - a multi-player experience that fleshes out the world and encourages players to make in-game purchases for special features. According to the earnings call, 70% of GTA V gamers who play with an Internet connection have checked out Online, which is free to play for those who've bought the original game. The Online format offers an even easier way to keep churning out new content for a longer period of time. 

GTA V hasn't made Take-Two forget its other popular franchises. The company has teamed up with Bethesda to release dual packs which feature a best-selling title from each company. Packs include Borderlands 2 with Dishonored or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with Bioshock Infinite and they will release for PC, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Sony's PlayStation 3.

However, what does Take-Two have planned for the next-gen consoles that have now arrived?    

Coming soon to the Xbox One and PS4
Take-Two only has one confirmed title coming soon to the new consoles. Evolve is a co-operative sci-fi action game which players can explore as either the hunters or the hunted monsters. The game comes from the creators of popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead and it will release for both Xbox One and the PS4 this fall. IGN's editor's recently had a chance to play the game and the review was filled with excitement. 

There's about 10 more next-gen games in the pipeline but details remain scant on those games. Thus Take-Two is running behind Electronic Arts, which currently holds a 35% market share for Xbox One and PS4 games.  

This late arrival to the new consoles isn't significant since both the Xbox One and PS4 were low on launch titles. The landfills aren't filling up with abandoned Xbox 360 consoles quite yet so games for the older consoles aren't a detriment for them.  

However, does Take-Two also have more plans to expand its mobile gaming presence? 

Move into mobile? 
Take-Two's current mobile strategy consists of waiting for technology to catch up with its older games-and the company plans to stick to that strategy. Several of the older Grand Theft Auto games have mobile versions with San Andreas joining the roster in December. San Andreas mobile offers improved graphics on the original, which released to consoles in 2004, and adds the touchscreen element of the platform.

The audience for the mobile games is mostly players of the console versions who want a quick fix of nostalgia with clearer scenery. But mobile isn't the most user-friendly platform for this type of game and Take-Two won't secure the type of sales figures as Flappy Bird or other mobile games of the minute. 

In the earnings conference call, Take-Two said it had no desire to make a mobile-centric acquisition and referenced Zynga's recent purchase of NaturalMotion. However, Take-Two remains open to other mergers and acquisitions and it cited Activision Blizzard as a smart player in those types of deals.

That's a smart stance to take. Take-Two couldn't force itself further into the mobile market without lowering the quality and that would backfire in the long run. If the company courts mergers and acquisitions, a match would work better with another company that focused on console and/or PC games.  

Why did Take-Two shares take a beating? 
There's no clear reason why Take-Two doesn't attract as much investor attention as some of its competitors. The company finished the third quarter with over $972 million in cash and equivalents, which is over half of the current market cap.  Take-Two expects to achieve non-GAAP profitability within the next fiscal year. 

My only theory is that there's a limited number of investors who are interested in gaming stocks in the first place and most of those individuals already feel sated with Electronic Arts or Activision. 

Foolish final thoughts 
Take-Two had the best-selling, record-breaking game of 2013 and that title will keep paying off well through this year. Its shares are currently priced similarly to those of Activision Blizzard, which has six times the market cap. Both companies look rather undervalued. 

Brandy Betz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard, Apple, and Take-Two Interactive. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard, Apple, and Microsoft. 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.

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