Take-Two CEO Says Play-to-Earn Games Aren’t Currently Entertaining; But They Could Be Someday

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has historically voiced a healthy mixture of curiosity and caution whenever it comes to new trends in the games industry, and thus far, his stance on blockchain and NFTs has been no exception.

Previously, Zelnick has expressed interest in blockchain technology as technology, but thought its uses for cryptocurrency and NFTs are solidly in the camp of speculation. Only a financial quarter later, that view hasn’t changed, even though his company’s visible interest in the tech has grown.

Take-Two announced its intent to acquire Zynga back in January, and with it, its interest in NFTs and recently hired of a VP of blockchain gaming. Speaking to IGN to coincide with Take-Two’s third-quarter earnings today, Zelnick affirms his lack of interest in speculation, saying it always ends badly for at least some.

But he does express optimism about the opportunities in the space. He says a lot of industry talent is moving into the blockchain space, and “where talent is, the market follows.”

Other AAA companies like Take-Two seem almost unanimously optimistic on the subject, with Square Enix, EA, Sega, Epic Games, and Konami all expressing interest, at minimum, if not outright announcing endeavors. But I asked Zelnick if his stance on blockchain and NFTs has changed at all given recent gaming community backlash to certain implementations, notably Stalker 2 and the more recent backpedaling by publisher Team17 on Worms.

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“It’s unfolded exactly as I expected, which is when everything is going up inexorably, people are pretty excited,” he replies. “When things start going down…then certain people get burned, and they begin to say, ‘Woah, this isn’t what we expected. This isn’t an entertainment experience, this is something else.’ And my view is that if it’s an entertainment experience, again, you want to make sure that consumers always get more value than they pay for, always. And if it’s not an entertainment experience, then it’s a gambling experience, and it has to be regulated and it has to be transparent,” Zelnick says.

“And so far, the play-to-earn games aren’t either one. They’re not highly entertaining, and they’re not regulated nor are their economics transparent. And I think consumers are having predictable feelings about that — none of this surprises me at all. But let’s not call into question underlying technology just because so far the expression of that technology has been inside of speculation. Speculations always come to an end; the tech will still exist. And it all depends what you do with it. I remain sanguine that there’s a lot to be done with it that’s exciting.”

Take-Two just announced its third-quarter earnings, posting net revenue of $903 million and reporting that GTA V has now sold over 160 million copies. The publisher has upped its projections for the coming quarter as it prepares to release WWE 2K22 and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in March. It’s also given a slightly firmer window for Marvel’s Midnight Suns, which is now planned for fall of 2022.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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