Various financial reports from game companies, and even Netflix, have been saying for a while now that Fortnite: Battle Royale has been having an effect on their bottom lines. It’s not a hard conclusion to make; the more time (and money) people spend in Epic Games’ colossus, the less they have for other games. The comparison might even be a little overused, as an excuse for why financial goals weren’t met for the quarter or the year.
One executive doesn’t agree. Speaking at Consume, Technology, & Services Conference earlier this week, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick dismissed the notion, saying that “Fortnite never affected the industry. Fortnite didn’t affect us in the least.” He said that his company’s games are different from Fortnite and therefore weren’t affected by the hugely popular battle royale. To illustrate his point, he made a comparison between video games and movies:
“I don’t believe for a minute that simply being available in one business model means something that is completely different can’t be available in another business model. There is no need for any entertainment property. If there’s no movie you want to see, you don’t watch any movies. And if there are a number of movies you want to see, you try to find a way to watch them all. But they don’t fill up a need – the need doesn’t exist in absence of something you want.”
Zelnick even called out companies that use Fortnite as a crutch for why their games aren’t doing well, saying that “when titles are great, they do well, and when they’re not as good, they don’t do well … Put out something really great in entertainment, and people will show up for it.”
While he’s not entirely wrong, especially on that last point, he’s not entirely right either. First off, gamers play different types of games, and while there might not be that much crossover between NBA 2K and Fortnite, I’d expect games with a strong shooter element, such as Red Dead Redemption 2 or Grand Theft Auto V, to share many more players with a big battle royale. To say that there’s no impact whatsoever, that people who are spending money on Fortnite dances and season passes wouldn’t be buying his company’s games, or their associated microtransactions, seems almost impossible to believe. There could be some question as to the the amounts that are being spent or not spent, and whether it’s enough to really impact Take-Two, but it’s got to be something.
Second, the movie analogy is a bad one, and comes from someone who’s clearly not a gamer himself. A movie takes about two hours to watch. You can check out several in a day, if you really want to. Two hours in a video game, especially a game-as-a-service, one that you’re expected to play for hundreds of hours, is virtually nothing. Unless you’re the type of person who watches a bunch of movies every day, the time commitment just isn’t the same.
I’d give credit to Zelnick for not checking off Fortnite as an excuse if and when his company’s games don’t turn a profit (or as big a profit as he’d like) … except that “competition” is mentioned 15 times in the 2018 financial report from Take-Two, mostly in the context of how it might make things difficult for the company. In other words, the company accepts that competing products — and not just games — could affect its bottom line, and wants to make sure its investors know that.
So I guess those movies are a big deal, after all.