Rockstar's Parent Company Talks Microtransactions, VR Doubts, Nintendo Switch Optimism

During a speaking appearance today, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick discussed a number of interesting topics, including microtransactions, virtual reality, and the Nintendo Switch.

Starting with microtransactions, Zelnick said Take-Two is not trying to nickel-and-dime players, though he did acknowledge that the company has received some amount of criticism on the subject. Microtransactions are part of what Take-Two calls “recurrent consumer spending” and this is big business for the company, and highly lucrative given the margins on digital content.

Rockstar's Parent Company Talks Microtransactions, VR Doubts, Nintendo Switch Optimism

You can expect Take-Two’s future games to continue to make use of microtransactions.

“You can’t give stuff away for free in perpetuity; there’s no business model in that,” Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company 45th Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. “But we’re not trying to optimise the monetisiation of everything we do to the nth degree.

“My concern is, if you do that, the consumer knows,” he said. “They might not even know that they know, but they feel it.”

Zelnick added: “Think about it anecdotally–when you paid a little too much for something, even if it was something really good, it really irks you. Paying too much for something bad is even worse. Paying too much for something really good, even if you can afford it, just leaves you with a bad feeling. We don’t want our consumers to ever feel that way.”

Also during the talk, Zelnick said Take-Two isn’t do as much in the area of microtransactions as its competitors, though he didn’t mention any by name. So you can expect Take-Two to try to walk the line of making more money per user, but in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the user experience.

“We are convinced that we are probably from an industry view undermonetising on a per-user basis,” the executive said. “There is wood to chop because I think we can do more, and we can do more without interfering with our strategy of being the most creative and our ethical approach, which is delighting consumers.”

“We’re not going to grab the last nickel.”

Grand Theft Auto Online was a significant contributor to Take-Two’s recurrent consumer spending revenue in the last quarter. Looking ahead, Rockstar has said Red Dead Redemption 2 will have an online element, though it has yet to be formally revealed.

Switching to virtual reality, Zelnick–who has been critical of VR in the past–started off by saying with a laugh, “[VR is] developing exactly as I said it would.”

He remains skeptical of VR: “So far there is not a significant entertainment market for VR software. I think that’s a factual statement.”

Take-Two’s Carnival Games virtual reality title “sold some units,” Zelnick said, while he also called out the NBA VR experience that Take-Two made.

Overall, Zelnick said Take-Two will support VR if the install base is big enough, which is the company’s plan for basically all platforms.

“If VR develops as a meaningful entertainment platform, we’ll be there,” he said.

“I am highly convinced it’s not going to be, ‘put on the headset, put on the earphones, stand up, hold two controllers, and do that for six hours.’ That’s very unlikely to happen” — Zelnick

“I am highly convinced it’s not going to be, ‘put on the headset, put on the earphones, stand up, hold two controllers, and do that for six hours.’ That’s very unlikely to happen,” he said.

A third major topic that came up during the talk was Nintendo Switch. Asked how much support Take-Two and its labels plan to give the hybrid console, the executive started off by pointing out, “We’re there, front and center” with the new NBA 2K game coming to the console this year.

Regarding Switch in general, Zelnick said, “We believe in it. We see it the way [Nintendo does]; it’s been a very successful launch. It remains to be seen how it does, but we’re excited about it. Assuming there is an installed base, we’ll be there. Not with all of our titles, but selectively.”

The Switch is Nintendo’s fastest-selling console ever, with sales passing 2.74 million units in its first month.

For more on Zelnick’s speaking event today, you can listen to a replay of the 40-minute talk here.

In other Take-Two news, the company announced today that it has acquired Kerbal Space Program.

Filed under:
Nintendo Switch
Grand Theft Auto V
Xbox One
PlayStation 4
PC
Carnival Games VR
NBA 2KVR Experience
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    Netflix Founder Wants to Cancel More Shows

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    Reed Hastings on why his streaming service needs to keep taking risks.

    Netflix founder Reed Hastings believes his streaming service needs to cancel more of its original shows.

    Speaking to CNBC (via Vulture) Hastings said that Netflix’s “hit ratio is way too high right now.” Netflix needs to be taking more risks, said Hastings, which would naturally result in some unexpected massive hits and some failures. “We’ve canceled very few shows,” he continued. “I’m always pushing the content team: We have to take more risk; you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.”

    By taking big risks, Hastings said, you get unexpectedly successful shows like 13 Reasons Why. “You get some winners that are just unbelievable winners, like 13 Reasons Why. It surprised us. It’s a great show, but we didn’t realize just how it would catch on.”

    To date, Netflix has rarely cancelled its originals. Notable outliers are The Get Down, Netflix’s first show that wasn’t renewed for a second season, and Marco Polo, which was canceled after two seasons without a proper ending (unlike situations like Hemlock Grove and Bloodline where a third and final season was announced/produced).

    Lucy O’Brien is an editor at IGN’s Sydney office. Follow her ramblings on Twitter.

    PS4/PC's Last Day Of June Looks Like A Tim Burton Film Crossed With A Watercolor Painting

    Murasaki Baby was a strange but beautiful platformer, and it was praised for its art style when it was released back in 2014. Now, the creator of Murasaki Baby, Massimo Guarini, has announced a new game, called Last Day of June, that looks just as unique and evocative.

    Last Day of June is an adventure game that tells a story of love and loss between two characters, Carl and June. According to developer Ovosonico, the story begins with a fun outing and progresses into Carl’s struggle to save June’s life. The announcement trailer shows off some of its gameplay and its beautiful environments. You can watch it above.

    To me, it looks sort of like a mixture of a watercolor painting and one of Tim Burton’s animated films. The backgrounds are full of soft brushstrokes, undefined edges, and pastel colors. But the characters have the exaggerated proportions and lankiness of Burton characters. This isn’t entirely a coincidence: one of the people working on Last Day of June is Jess Cope, an animator on Burton’s Frankenweenie.

    Players will explore environments and work to complete puzzles in order to try and save June. As a press release states, “In this cinematic experience, players will solve emotionally challenging puzzles in an attempt to turn back time, compelling them to ask themselves, ‘What would you do to save the one you love?'”

    Last Day of June will launch for PS4 and PC sometime in 2017. You can read more about Guarini’s last game, Murasaki Baby, here.

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    PlayStation 4
    PC
    Last Day of June
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    The Flash: Season 3 Review

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    Barry Allen struggles to find his footing in a more uneven third season.

    Note: this is a mostly spoiler-free review of Season 3 of The Flash, which is now on Netflix. I’ll discuss basic plot and character details but avoid getting too much into specifics.

    Season 3 appears to be the real test for The CW’s Arrowverse shows. Arrow followed up its first two seasons with a much rockier third season, leaving that series in a hole of which it’s only just now managed to climb out. The Flash went through a similar series of hurdles this year. The Flash: Season 3 was noticeably more uneven than its predecessors, suggesting that maybe Barry Allen’s best days are behind him. Luckily, the show was able to recapture its footing where Arrow continued to struggle. The strong last couple months of the season went a long way towards making up for the mistakes that came before.

    It was clear right away that Season 3 faced a long, uphill battle. Season 2 ended with an exciting cliffhanger, as Barry (Grant Gustin) traveled back in time, undid his parents’ deaths and created the alternate timeline known as Flashpoint. Anyone who’s read the Flashpoint comic or watched the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was surely salivating at the thought of seeing a twisted, dystopian vision of the Arrowverse. What the premiere episode, “Flashpoint,” actually delivered was slightly less exciting. Aside from a few key differences, this world wasn’t a particularly dramatic change from the norm. There was still a definite appeal in seeing Barry briefly granted the happy, quiet life he’s always dreamed of, but “Flashpoint” set an underwhelming precedent that would continue on for several months.

    Looking back at my reviews of the first half of Season 3, it wasn’t until the midseason finale that any episode scored above the low 8 range. That pretty much encapsulates the problems with the season right there. The show was often perfectly fine on a week-to-week basis, but it was rare for any episode to really stand out from the pack. The general status quo in the first half of the season too often struggled to measure up to the Reverse-Flash and Zoom conflicts from seasons past. The end result of Barry’s three months spent living in Flashpoint was a handful of changes to the Team Flash dynamic, many of which became all but irrelevant after a week or two. Flashpoint also resulted in the rise of two new villains – Doctor Alchemy and Savitar (both voiced by Tobin Bell). Alchemy never amounted to much more than a shadowy, mysterious string-puller, while it wasn’t until the final few episodes of the season that Savitar truly came into his own.

    Again, the show really struggled to build a cohesive and compelling direction in the early months of Season 3. It was a long, long time before it became clear exactly what separated Savitar from previous speedster villains. Nor did Alchemy’s quest to restore the Flashpoint status quo do much to build a strong narrative hook. More than ever, the series was forced to fall back on the core Team Flash dynamic. At least it always has that element to rely upon. The Flash may no longer be the best the Arrowverse has to offer, but after three years I’ve become very invested in the collective struggle of this unusual family of speedsters and geniuses.

    There was plenty of character drama to work through early on, much of it the direct result of Barry’s time-meddling. Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) dealt with a mutual estrangement. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) mourned the death of someone close to him. Both Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) dealt with the spontaneous appearance of metahuman powers (with the former dreading her transformations into Killer Frost and the latter relishing his opportunity to follow in Barry’s footsteps). That’s to say nothing of the complications created by Barry’s new co-worker/frenemy, Julian Desmond (Tom Felton). When all else failed, the Team Flash family drama could usually be relied upon to keep the show humming along.

    Julian proved an entertaining and somewhat unpredictable addition to the recurring cast, adding a unique voice and temperament to the Team Flash dynamic. But the best addition this year was H.R. (Tom Cavanagh), the latest alternate universe incarnation of Harrison Wells. It’s part of The Flash’s charm that there must always be a Wells in the picture, even if Cisco and friends have to go on a recruitment drive to find one. Cavanagh again proved to be one of the show’s MVP’s, playing H.R. as a wholly distinct character compared to Season 1’s Dr. Wells and Season 2’s Harry. There were even a few opportunities to see Cavanagh play multiple Wellses in the same scene, just for kicks.

    This season also got a lot of mileage out of John Wesley Shipp’s new role as the real Jay Garrick. Like Cavanagh, Shipp successfully managed to set his new character apart from the old, casting Jay as a grizzled veteran not entirely comfortable with his status as mentor to Barry and his fellow speedsters. The only complaint here is that the season never used Jay as often as it could. That was especially true with the midseason finale, “The Present,” which offered a tantalizingly brief glimpse of Jay’s rivalry with Earth-3’s Trickster (Mark Hamill).

    Looking back, the one character who felt oddly underutilized this year was Wally. On paper, it was a big year for Wally, as he gained his speed powers and took his place alongside Barry. That paved the way for several memorable speedster team-ups (including one with Violett Beane’s Jesse Quick thrown in for good measure). But there was a specific point in the season where it seemed like the writers completely lost interest in Wally. He all but completely faded to the background and never recovered as a result. The show needs to do better by the character in Season 4.

    The character drama gave the early episodes weight where villains like Alchemy faltered, but that drama brought about its own set of problems. Not only was the scope of Flashpoint itself disappointingly limited, the fallout often felt small and perfunctory. Some subplots, particularly the Joe/Iris rift, were quickly resolved and forgotten, almost like they never happened at all. And at some point, the series simply felt too mired in darkness. Character drama is great, but this series has always thrived on its ability to balance that drama with lighthearted adventure and that ever-important sense of hope. But Barry Allen became more morose than ever this year, and his misery seemed to envelop everyone around him. It didn’t help that The Flash was airing new episodes at the same time as fellow Arrow-verse/CW series Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, two shows that did a much better job of balancing character drama with lighthearted fun this year.

    By the time the midseason finale rolled around, it was clear that Season 3 had two fundamental problems – an overabundance of darkness and a lack of a clear, compelling supervillain threat. To its credit, the show started making a concerted effort to address both problems around that point, though it would be some time before either was truly rectified.

    “The Present” at least established clear stakes for Team Flash and a new conflict to propel the show forward in the second half of Season 3. A good start, though the problem remained that viewers knew very little about Savitar or what motivated this self-styled god of speed in his feud with Team Flash. The writers waited a shockingly long time to actually shed light on the man beneath the armor. In fact, it wasn’t until late April that Savitar’s identity was finally revealed. That ambiguity weighed on the show for months. As the third speedster villain in as many seasons, Savitar just didn’t have the novelty factor or the depth needed to stand out.

    Fortunately, that did change once the reveal came and Savitar’s true endgame became apparent. The final five episodes went a long way towards reviving the Savitar conflict and building the character into someone worthy of Reverse-Flash and Zoom. That doesn’t necessarily excuse the writers for keeping their cards close to the vest for so long, nor their decision to focus on a third speedster villain when there are so many other worthy Flash villains who haven’t gotten their due yet.. But at the same time, the reveal did make it apparent why that prolonged secrecy was necessary. Moreover, the reveal wound up tying the season together, forcing Barry to confront his mistakes and his habit of being the architect of much of his own misery. For a villain who remained so aloof for much of the season, Savitar wound up becoming a surprisingly personal villain in the end.

    It also didn’t hurt that the later episodes placed so much emphasis on Caitlin’s fall from grace. I still maintain that Killer Frost should have been the central villain of Season 3. But even as a supporting player in the Savitar conflict, Caitlin added a great deal of dramatic weight to the series, with the writers banking heavily on the strong bond linking Barry, Cisco and Caitlin and the tragedy that arose when those bonds were shattered. This was also a valuable chance for Panabaker to play Killer Frost not as an overt villain, but someone torn between her twisted metahuman side and the good, loyal friend that still remained within.

    As for the dark tone, it’s no coincidence that some of the best episodes this season were those that diverged from the Savitar conflict and focused on the lighter side of Barry’s world. The two-part Gorilla Grodd storyline was very entertaining, offering fans their first real glimpse of Earth-2’s Gorilla City and suggesting that Grodd would make for an excellent recurring villain if not for the sheer expense involved in bringing the character to life. The series even took the opportunity to throw in a little levity right before the end, as “Infantino Street” offered a wonderfully entertaining Flash/Captain Cold team-up before moving into the dramatic fallout of Savitar’s final attack.

    But nowhere did the series shine brighter this season than in the long-awaited musical episode/Supergirl crossover “Duet.” For one glorious hour, all the darkness fell away and Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist were given free reign to sing, dance and just have fun playing superheroes. It certainly didn’t hurt that so many actors involved, including Victor Garber, John Barrowman and Jesse L. Martin have serious musical theater chops of their own. Not only did that episode strongly suggest that the musical crossover needs to become an annual tradition, it served as a crucial reminder of how enthralling The Flash can be when it focuses on the lighter side of Barry Allen’s life. Hopefully that episode, and the generally improved state of the series in the second half of Season 3, are signs of what to expect when the show returns in the fall.

    The Flash (CW): Season 3

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    The Verdict

    The Flash: Season 3 is a clear step down from the show’s first two years. It’s not that there were many truly bad episodes this year, but more that the show struggled too long to find a compelling status quo and make the most of the fallout from “Flashpoint.” Some of the best episodes this season had little to do with the overarching Savitar conflict. Luckily, the show did find its footing in the final two months of Season 3, and that strong finish went a long way toward redeeming the season as a whole.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

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    A lot of ponies for not many pennies.

    Be sure to visit IGN Tech for all the latest comprehensive hands-on reviews and best-of roundups. Note that if you click on one of these links to buy the product, IGN may get a share of the sale. For more, read our Terms of Use.

    The hottest trend in gaming laptops is “VR readiness,” and the ASUS Republic of Gamers GL702VM proudly (See it on Amazon) (See it on Amazon UK) announces in its marketing materials that it’s is a machine wholly capable of transporting you to new, entirely virtual, realities. Its “readiness” is due to the inclusion of an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU, which is the new entry level GPU for VR. At $1299, the GL702VM configuration I received for testing is on the lower end of the pricing spectrum given its specs, and the most readily apparent trade-off it makes to hit this low-ish price is the fact that it uses an older Intel Core- i7 6700HQ CPU, which is from the previous generation, a.k.a. Skylake.

    Practically all new gaming laptops, and all the the models we’re reviewing this week, use the newer Kaby Lake Core-i7 7700HQ, which is marginally faster. Aside from its CPU and GPU, the most notable gaming spec it offers is the inclusion of a huge 17″ G-Sync display, allowing for glorious tear-free gaming.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    Asus ROG Strix GL702VM

    Specs

    Here are the specifications of the ASUS ROG Strix GL702VM we’re specifically evaluating here:

    • Model GL702VM-DB74
    • Display: 1920×1080 17.3-inch G-Sync Matte Display
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
    • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz
    • Memory: 16GB DDR4
    • OS: Windows 10
    • OS Drive: 256GB SATA SSD
    • Storage Drive: 1TB 7,200 RPM HDD
    • Optical Drive: N/A
    • Ports: 1 x COMBO audio jack, 1 x USB 3.1 TYPE C Thunderbolt port, 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x RJ45 LAN, 1 x HDMI, 1 x mini Display Port
    • Battery: 76 Whrs Polymer Battery
    • Wireless: 802.11 ac 2×2, Bluetooth 4.1
    • Weight: 6 pounds
    • Price: $1,299

    As mentioned earlier, the GL702VM’s processor is a 6th-generation Skylake Core i7-6700HQ running at 2.6GHz, but ASUS offers a version with the newer Core i7-7700HQ as well, and it costs $200 more. It’s not really worth the upgrade though, as it has a smaller 128GB SSD and a slower 5,400rpm hard drive instead of the 256GB SSD and 7,200rpm hard drive.

    Storage-wise, having an extra terabyte of hard drive storage makes all the difference in the world. The 256GB SSD is fine for your OS and some programs, but with the size of modern games it will fill up quickly. Grand Theft Auto 5 is now over 70GB, for example, so installing games to the SSD means choosing only the ones that will benefit from the performance boost, and putting the rest on the hard drive. The 7200 RPM hard drive helps with game load times versus a 5400 RPM version, but just having all that extra space in tandem with the SSD is great.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    Asus ROG Strix GL702VM

    There are plenty of extra ports populating the edges of the GL702VM. You get three USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, Mini Displayport, HDMI, an honest-to-God Ethernet port, as well as an SD Card reader and combination headphone/microphone jack. We would have liked to have had separate jacks for headphones and mic, but it’s a minor complaint.

    The 17.3-inch, 1080p G-Sync display on the GL702VM is crisp and colors really pop. Text looks great, making web surfing and daily driving easy on the eyes. High definition movies also look fantastic on the GL702VM, and the screen’s matte finish keeps it from being too reflective, but it isn’t quite bright enough for use in full sunlight.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    Asus ROG Strix GL702VM

    ASUS includes its ROG Gaming Center software with the GL702VM, and not much else, and that’s a good thing. Other laptops come preloaded with intrusive software constantly bothering you to back-up or register, or run scans, but the ROG Gaming Center software just hangs out until you want to use it. The software monitors the frequency and temperature of CPU, GPU, and memory. It also has settings for turning on and off the Windows key, adjusting screen brightness and colors, and it has four programmable profiles for gaming, movies, etc.

    The Keyboard

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    Asus ROG Strix GL702VM

    The GL702VM has a backlit chiclet style full-size keyboard with bright orange WASD keys. The WASD keys are translucent, so when the lighting is on, they glow more brightly than the rest of the keys. Is it a helpful feature? Not really, but it does help drive home the point it’s a laptop designed for gaming, and it looks pretty cool. As far as keyboards go, it’s great. Key travel is wonderfully satisfying and since the GL702VM is a 17-inch laptop, my hands never felt crowded on the spacious keyboard. Probably the highest praise I can offer is that there was no adjustment required going from a desktop keyboard to this one. The GL702VM has ample wrist space, too, so I didn’t experience wrist fatigue. The trackpad buttons also have a nice, meaty click to them and though the trackpad itself lacks lighting effects, it has a bright orange pinstripe around its edge, making it easier to find and use.

    Performance

    To see how the GL702VM fared against a few of its competitor we ran a few games and synthetic benchmarks. Four of the five systems we tested used a GTX 1060 GPU so as you can see performance was incredibly similar, which is a comparison that works in this model’s favor, given its lower price. The GL702VM has an older CPU, as I noted above, but for gaming there’s almost zero difference between the Skylake part and the newer Kaby Lake version.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    The GL702VM holds its own performance-wise, even against laptops with newer Core i7-7700HQ CPUs. The Razer Blade, MSI GE62VR, and Alienware 13 all have the same GPU as the Asus laptop, but use the newer i7-7700HQ CPU, and as you can see there’s almost zero difference in gaming. When making comparison that take price into consideration the GL702VM looks like an absolutely killer deal, performing just as well as much more expensive laptops.

    ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM Review

    It also stays surprisingly cool when in use, with no distracting fan noise to speak of. If you sit it on your lap, it radiates an almost cozy warmth, but we never felt like the computer, or my thighs, were in danger of overheating. At 6 pounds, it’s certainly on the heavy side, but not obnoxiously so.

    Battery Life

    Battery life for gaming laptops falls into two categories: acceptable and atrocious. The GL702VM is in the acceptable category. Through normal use, web surfing with a dozen or so tabs open, watching the occasional YouTube and auto-play Facebook videos, we got just under 4 hours of battery life. That’s with the screen set to 50% brightness and the keyboard lighting turned off. Stress-testing by running a 4K video in VLC, however, absolutely decimated the battery. After just 1 hour 29 minutes, the GL702VM gave up the ghost. This is about average for this class of laptop, but not as good as more expensive laptops such as the Razer Blade and Alienware 13.

    Purchasing Guide

    The ASUS Republic of Gamers Strix GL702VM has an MSRP of $1,299, and that’s exactly what it’s going for on Amazon. Since it’s an older model, Asus told us it is clearing out inventory though, so if this laptop tickles your fancy you best snatch one while you still can:

    Seth Macy is IGN’s weekend web producer and just wants to be your friend. Follow him on Twitter @sethmacy, or subscribe to Seth Macy’s YouTube channel.

    This link directs to a retail affiliate. IGN may receive a commission from your purchase.

    The Verdict

    At just $1,299, the GL702VM hits the sweet spot between price and performance, making it a top contender in the midrange gaming laptop market. Build quality is good but not great, with a lid made of metal and everything else made of hard plastic, but at this price you have to live with a few tradeoffs, and luckily there are very few. I liked how it manages to shed heat without distracting fan noise, and for a 17-inch gaming laptop, it actually feels relatively small. It’s not a mega powerhouse thanks to its midrange GPU but it’s great for 1080p gaming, and the G-Sync display is a a great addition. Overall it’s a killer notebook, especially given its low price.