E3 Show Daily

Take-Two Takes Charge

One of the most celebrated publishers in the industry, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. takes pride in consistently offering gamers strong, original properties and top-line sports licenses across its 2K Games, 2K Sports, and Rockstar Games brands. The results shine through in Take-Two’s offerings at E3 this year, which is headlined by exciting new entries in proven franchises.

According to Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two and chairman of the Entertainment Software Association, "This will be another strong year for Take-Two, highlighted by a great lineup from what we believe to be the strongest portfolio of owned intellectual property imagined and realized by the most passionate and talented development teams in the world."

Leading the company’s charge this year is Mafia III, a brand new game in the action franchise—the first in six years. During that span, development on the series moved over to 2K Games' newest internal studio, Hangar 13, which is led by Haden Blackman, a longtime game designer best known for his work on multiple Star Wars games at LucasArts.

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Under Blackman, Hangar 13 has shaped a new direction for the organized crime series—one that envisions familiar mobsters as enemies, rather than protagonists. Players take the role of Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam War veteran who returns home in 1968 to New Bordeaux (a fictionalized New Orleans), and becomes immersed in the mob. When the Italian mafia wipes out his crew, Clay rebuilds with a thirst for vengeance... and an eye on ruling New Bordeaux’s underworld.

Due out on October 7 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, Mafia III promises to advance the series' open-city design by allowing players to shape their own path through missions—with no automatic failures triggered if they stray from a prescribed path or chain of events. Not only can players freely explore the city as they wish, but now they can also choose from a wider array of tactics as they progress through the story-driven campaign.

"Empowering the player to 'play their way' means providing multiple approaches to each mission, and as choices are made, the gameplay, narrative, and even the city itself changes right before the player's eyes," Zelnick explained. "Our expectation is that Mafia III will be the breakout hit for the series, and vastly exceed what previous Mafia releases have accomplished, both creatively and commercially."

Take-Two’s next entry is well-known to strategy enthusiasts: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is set to release for PC on October 21. Over the course of its celebrated 25-year history, the franchise has sold more than 34 million units, and Civilization VI marks that landmark by further evolving its beloved historical strategy premise—which has kept fans up for countless late nights over the years.

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Firaxis Games' latest Civilization brings a raft of enhancements to the series, including cities that expand across the terrain, an active research element that allows players to push ahead via technology and culture gains, and historical leaders who rule based on their real-life traits and tendencies. Civilization VI also has a brighter, refreshed look, and brings in new tutorial systems to help novices find their footing in this large-scale strategy quest. 

This year also sees Firaxis pulling double-duty with its other big franchise: The studio is set to unleash Xbox One and PS4 versions of XCOM 2 on September 6. The science-fiction tactical strategy sequel released on PC in February, and was a smash with critics and consumers alike, with sales thus far exceeding Take-Two’s expectations. 

XCOM 2 is the sequel to 2012's award-winning XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which rebooted the classic strategy franchise after more than a decade of inactivity. The game picks up with alien forces inhabiting the earth, following a failure to keep invaders at bay in Enemy Unknown, and players must guide the titular military organization through turn-based showdowns and off-the-battlefield maneuvering. Since the PC release, many Xbox One and PS4 owners have eagerly awaited word on a console release for XCOM 2.

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Meanwhile, 2K Sports has its two annual licensed franchises back in action, with NBA 2K17 set to continue the impressive run demonstrated by the basketball simulation series in recent years. Last year’s NBA 2K16 outperformed sales expectations and is poised to be the series’ all-time best-selling entry. 

The September 20 release of NBA 2K17 promises to bring myriad enhancements on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Indiana Pacers shooting guard Paul George will appear on the cover of the standard edition of the Visual Concepts-developed simulation, while the NBA 2K17 Kobe Bryant Legend Edition will spotlight the recently-retired Los Angeles Lakers legend on Xbox One and PS4.

In October, 2K Sports will release WWE 2K17, which is co-developed by Yuke's and Visual Concepts and will debut on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360. The franchise has grown in popularity since 2K acquired the license in 2013, and Take-Two believes that it will only reach more fans with the new entry.

"Today, the WWE brand remains as popular and vibrant as ever, and we believe we can continue to grow sales by further leveraging the development and marketing expertise of 2K and Visual Concepts," said Zelnick. "There's lots of upside here."

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In addition to the brand new releases, 2K Games and developer Gearbox Software will continue to support the May release of new property Battleborn, a hero-based shooter for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, with further free and premium content planned. Additionally, Rockstar Games has additional content coming for Grand Theft Auto Online—the multiplayer experience bundled with Grand Theft Auto V, the enormously popular 2013 open-world action game that has shipped more than 65 million copies to date.

One emerging market that Take-Two is still considering is virtual reality (VR). According to Zelnick, his teams "Continually evaluate all new forms of technology to see how they can best be leveraged to enhance the entertainment experiences for our audiences." He currently believes the price and potential physical space demands are currently too much for the average consumer, but said, "I'm not unexcited about VR; however, it remains to be seen whether a meaningful market develops around it. If it does, then we'll be there."

Luckily, plenty of excitement is going around this week—and no matter what attendees are interested in or intrigued by, E3 remains ground zero for the future of the interactive entertainment industry.

"E3 remains the event of the year for our industry, as companies and attendees from around the world gather to celebrate today's most innovative and successful art form. Walking around the convention center, one cannot help but recognize the vast creative talent and engaging experiences that can only be found in interactive entertainment," Zelnick affirmed. "Ongoing advances in technology continue to provide developers with increasingly robust canvases on which to paint, exciting new ways to delight audiences, and the ability to embrace thriving communities whose passion drives where we'll be tomorrow."

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