As the leader of Take-Two Interactive, Strauss Zelnick is on a mission to help the gaming company become the most “innovative, creative and efficient entertainment company in the world.” Since his tenure as CEO began in 2011, he’s done so through a series of strategic moves, most recently completing a nearly $13 billion acquisition of mobile games giant Zynga.
“We were already a leader in the console and PC space, and we believe we had already the best collection of intellectual property in the space. However, mobile is the fastest growing part of the interactive entertainment business,” Zelnick told TheWrap CEO Sharon Waxman during a “Spotlight Conversation” during this year’s TheGrill 2022 conference presented by Take-Two Interactive.
In addition to giving Take-Two greater exposure to the rapidly expanding mobile games business — including popular titles like “Farmville” and “Words With Friends 2” — the acquisition of Zynga also gave the company the ability to reach a larger target audience. While console gaming tends to skew more toward young males, mobile gaming skews older and more female.
“Together, it’s a powerhouse of owned intellectual property that speaks to every part of the interactive interface,” Zelnick said.
While consolidation has certainly been a trademark of the gaming business over the past several years, Take-Two isn’t the only giant who has been expanding. Microsoft is currently in the process of buying Activision, which will make it the world’s third-largest gaming company.
However, Zelnick doesn’t see competition as a threat. Instead, he views Microsoft as an ally — and its impending acquisition of Activision as a good move for the industry at large.
“Ultimately the consumer votes, and if we create great hits, which is our business, then consumers will show up, and no one can take that away from us,” he said. “The entertainment business is the antithesis of a fungible commoditized business. Every title stands alone. So it sort of doesn’t compete with anything else and yet, it’s highly competitive in a way. In other words, we compete with everything and we compete with nothing. You can’t replace one of our titles with another title.”
Rather than focus on beating the competition, Zelnick explained he wants Take-Two to continue being able to weather a loss and survive in the current landscape, even as a recession looms, meaning more consumers will have less money to spend on nonessentials like gaming.
“Now and then, you have a bad year in the entertainment business,” Zelnick said. “You have to be capitalized well enough to withstand that and give your teams confidence that they’re gonna live to play another bet.”
You can watch Zelnick in TheWrap’s full Spotlight Conversation from TheGrill in the video above.
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TheGrill 2022 sponsors include Loeb & Loeb, City National Bank, Gracenote, Warner Bros. Discovery, Gerber Kawasaki, Sony Pictures, Take-Two Interactive, SAG-AFTRA, New York Festivals, Samba TV and IMAX.