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Take-Two CEO Explains Why GTA And Other Games Aren’t Getting Film Or TV Adaptations

The Rockstar Games parent company wants creative control for a live-action adaptation of its biggest franchises if it were to happen

Despite owning the rights to some of the biggest video game franchises ever – such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption – video game behemoth Take-Two Interactive hasn’t considered expanding these IPs to film or TV so far. During the Q&A section of the company’s latest earnings briefing, CEO Strauss Zelnick explained why we won’t be getting a film based on them any time soon.

When asked if he plans to mimic the recent live-action adaptation success of Nintendo’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us HBO series, Zelnick says, “We think it’s probably a relatively small opportunity” to profit from film and TV adaptations.

A challenging endeavour

The CEO said, “We’re not going to use our balance sheet to invest in film and television projects. Those are typically very challenged asset classes with which I’m quite familiar.” Before joining Take-Two, Zelnick was an executive at Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox, he was also on the board at CBS.

Zelnick mentioned that HBO’s The Last of Us and Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie were special cases where video games did just as well as their TV and film adaptations. “And to point out two success – as notable as they may be – lies the fact that there are many, many failures where money was lost,” he said. “So far, we’ve taken a very selective approach to licensing.”

Lately, Take-Two is changing its approach as well. The company is working closely with Lionsgate on a Borderlands movie and is also working with Netflix on a BioShock film. “We could see licensing in the future when there’s a creative imperative and an economic opportunity,” said Zelnick.

Creative control

Zelnick went on to say that Take-Two is cautious about transmedia projects because they’re only giving permission to use their game series, not making it themselves where they can have more control.

“We’re not going to bet this company’s future or the value of our intellectual property based on someone else’s execution in another area of the entertainment business. So we’ll continue to be very selective indeed.

“Even if we did take a broad-based approach – in the absence of investing ourselves, the economic opportunity in the context of the much greater economic opportunity for our core business is limited,” Zelnick said.

Grand Theft Auto is Take-Two’s top game franchise, and over the years people have wondered why there hasn’t been a GTA movie or TV series so far. Much like other successful adaptations, it would take enormous work to create a worthwhile live-action GTA project and it’s likely to happen some day.

“The reason there’s been success lately was because you had great IP and then there was a great project that was made from it,” said Zelnick. “And the reason you’ve had failure in the past is that the expression of the IP just wasn’t very good despite people’s best efforts. It’s a really hard business.”

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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