Fielding a question on today's quarterly investors call regarding the performance of Grand Theft Auto 4's DLC double-header and the accompanying retail bundle – The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony, and Episodes from Liberty City, respectively – Take-Two CEO Ben Feder admits, "Both we and Microsoft believed there was a big market for GTA 4 episodic content and some factors affected their performance." Calling the two companies' relationship "a historic, strategic partnership" – remember this? – and calling the episodes themselves "profitable contributors to the company," Feder nevertheless offered some insight into what his company could have done to make them even more profitable.
"Both were released significantly after the launch of the core unit," Feder says, referring to the April 2008 launch of Grand Theft Auto 4. "And therefore weren't able to leverage GTA 4's initial marketing campaign and initial launch fervor." With The Lost and Damned coming out in February of this year, some 10 months after GTA 4's initial release, and The Ballad of Gay Tony this past October, 18 months after the initial release, we'd have to agree that timing played an issue; the GTA 4 hype machine had worn off.
Episodes from Liberty City, the retail DLC combo pack, had an uncharacteristically light launch for a Grand Theft Auto title, failing to crack the NPD top 10 in both October and November. Feder explains, "Episodes of Liberty City seems to have been most appealing to those who finished GTA 4 and wanted more story and gameplay, which is a smaller market than originally expected." With many gamers logging dozens of hours in Grand Theft Auto 4, and the game appealing to many mainstream players, it's not surprising to learn that the market of gamers who exhausted the initial offering was smaller than expected.
All this isn't to say that Grand Theft Auto's first foray into DLC was a failure, however. Feder remains hopeful, saying, "There's very little precedent for this type of episodic content at the price point we offered it. And so we're confidant that these titles will continue to have a long life just as we've seen a long life from all of our other prior GTA releases." And as other developers experiment with DLC – look no further than Bethesda's infamous horse armor misstep leading up to their industry-defining Fallout 3 DLC offerings – we reckon Rockstar will take another ride on the DLC chuckwagon, with a slightly accelerated release schedule. Giddyup, DLC!
[Update: The aforementioned quotes were in fact from Take-Two CEO Ben Feder and not Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick, as previously reported.]