In Karl Thiel's Feb. 4 update on game publisher Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO), one point that he explored in more depth is the company's "lack of visibility," as alleged by an analyst at Wedbush Securities. The idea is that every few years, Take-Two gets a huge boost from sales of its latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, followed by a "lack of visibility" in the interim.
Thiel argued, though, that management has been "focusing on a more diverse pipeline" of games, and pointed out that the company expects to achieve "non-GAAP profitability in fiscal 2015 and every year for the foreseeable future."
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what investors should be looking for when Take-Two reports earnings on Oct. 29 after the close.
Fiscal 2015 is expected to be strong, but expectations are very high
On the last earnings call, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, stated that fiscal 2015 is expected to be "another strong year of revenues and profits" for the company, citing a "diverse array of new AAA releases and innovative digitally delivered offerings." CFO Lainie Goldstein reiterated the company's full-year outlook of $1.35 billion to $1.45 billion in non-GAAP net revenue, and non-GAAP earnings per share of between $0.80 and $1.05.
The good news is that the analyst community appears to have a lot of faith in Take-Two's ability to hit (or exceed) the high-end of its guidance, with consensus for revenue and earnings per share for the fiscal year sitting at $1.44 billion and $1.05, respectively.
The risk here, though, is that with the stock just off of its 52-week high of $24.28, Take-Two will likely need to deliver at or above the high end of its own guidance to really "impress" investors. For what it's worth, though, as a gamer myself, I do think that Take-Two does have a very strong pipeline of titles, and it's not hard to see why the analyst community is so optimistic.
Looking past the quarterly results
The Motley Fool is all about long-term investing, so while it is true that Take-Two's business does lack a good deal of quarter-to-quarter visibility, the key takeaways will be how the business is trending over the long term.
So, for example, if Take-Two reports strength in its other non-Grand Theft Auto franchises, then this is a good sign for the long term. Why? Well, the more successful franchises that Take-Two has in its inventory, the more money it can make refreshing those franchises over time.
Of course, investors have to trust that these franchises are in good hands, but this is where Take-Two's track record is solid. Grand Theft Auto V, for example, scored a 97% on Metacritic, garnering "universal acclaim." BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite (for PC) each scored 96, 88, and 94 on Metacritic, respectively.
Take-Two has a proven track record of creating strong franchises and putting out quality sequels time and again. If Take-Two can keep translating those quality games into robust sales time and again, then long-term investors should have plenty to be excited about.