What You Missed This Week In Video Games

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Tons of pre-release ‘GTA VI’ footage available online following massive leak

“Game On” is The Fly’s weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.

NEW RELEASES: 

This week’s big release is the Xbox Series X/S (MSFT) port of Bethesda’s “Deathloop,” which launches for the consoles on September 20. Even though Microsoft acquired Bethesda and all of its development studios last year, the game originally came first exclusively to PlayStation 5 (SONY) for a year when it launched in September 2021 as a result of a previous agreement between Sony and Bethesda. Additionally, Square Enix (SQNXF) strategy RPG “The Diofield Chronicle” launches September 22, 2022 for PC, Nintendo Switch (NTDOY), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

GTA LEAK: 

Over the weekend, a hacker published pre-release footage from the development of Take-Two’s (TTWO) upcoming title “Grand Theft Auto VI,” which was only confirmed to be in development earlier this year and which has not announced release window. Dozens of authentic, pre-release videos from GTA VI, including robberies, gunplay and open-world driving, were posted on an online message board over the weekend, with the hacker posting a message seeking to “negotiate a deal” and asked developer Rockstar Games or Take-Two to contact them, according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier and Cecilia D’Anastasio.

Commenting on the leak, Take-Two released a statement saying, “Rockstar Games recently experienced a network intrusion in which an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from its systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto. Current Rockstar Games services are unaffected. We have already taken steps to isolate and contain this incident. Work on the game will continue as planned. At this time, Rockstar Games does not anticipate any disruption to its current services nor any long-term effect on its development timelines as a result of this incident.”

Following the news, BofA analyst Omar Dessouky said the leaked footage is “slightly negative” for shares of Take-Two because it provides an incremental data point that the game is not ready for a 2023 release, which most investors assume. In addition, valuable intellectual property from Rockstar may have been stolen, Dessouky tells investors in a research note. The analyst saw no indication that the “next GTA” could be Alpha testing already, noting the most advanced-stage clip he saw, which is likely dated Spring 2022, “appeared rough and barely playable.” Meanwhile, Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey said that the Monday dip in shares presents a buying opportunity, as he does not think the leak of the “pre-alpha” footage will challenge the timing of the game’s release or the ultimate demand for the game, adding that he thought the early footage “looked incredible.” Hickey, who “can’t imagine anybody would decide to not play the game after viewing the footage,” is incrementally more confident the game can release in FY25 as the leak confirms that “the game is very much real, and significant development has been completed.”

NPD HARDWARE: 

NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said that August 2022 consumer spending across video game hardware, content and accessories declined 5% when compared to a year ago, to $4.1B. This total is slightly higher than the $4.07B total reached during the August 2020 tracking period. Year-to-date spending through August 2022 totaled $34.6B, a 9% drop when compared to the same period in 2021, but 3% higher than the $33.5B achieved during the 2020 comparable period. 2022 video game monthly consumer spending has returned to 2020 levels, Piscatella noted. Video game hardware dollar sales grew 14% when compared to a year ago, to $375M, helped by improved supply of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles. Year-to-date hardware spending declined by 4% to $2.9B. PlayStation 5 was August’s best-selling hardware platform in both unit and dollar sales. The Nintendo Switch has sold the highest number of units in 2022 thus far, while PlayStation 5 led the market in dollar sales. As was noted in July, both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series again experienced double-digit percentage growth during the month when compared to a year ago.

NPD SOFTWARE: 

NPD’s Piscatella also said that Electronic Arts’ (EA) “Madden NFL 22” debuted as the best-selling game of August, while also ranking 5th among the best-selling games of 2022. This is the 23rd consecutive year that a “Madden NFL” franchise release was the best-selling title of its launch month. Sony’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” jumped to 3rd on the best-selling titles chart for August – up from 84th in July. “Marvel’s Spider-Man” was the month’s best seller across tracked Steam titles. Sony’s “Horizon II: Forbidden West” ranked as the 12th best-selling game of August, driven partially by price promotion. The title ranked 28th overall on July’s chart. “Horizon II: Forbidden West” currently stands as the 4th best-selling game of 2022. Other top-selling video games in the U.S. in August, in terms of dollar sales, include Embracer’s (THQQF) “Saints Row,” Bandai Namco’s (NCBDY) “Elden Ring,” Warner Bros. Discovery’s (WBD) “MultiVersus,” Nintendo’s “Mario Kart 8,” and Microsoft’s “Minecraft.”

  • Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Activision Blizzard (ATVI) faces in-depth reviews in the EU and U.K., FT reports [more]
  • Electronic Arts said that “The Sims 4” base game will be free-to-play starting October 18 [more]
  • EA also announced it is developing an “Iron Man” game in collaboration with Marvel (DIS) [more]
  • Tencent (TCEHY) and NetEase (NTES) won China’s approval for new games, WSJ reports [more]
  • PlayStation’s “Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves” collection arrives on PC October 18, 2022 [more]

Originally Posted September 20, 2022 – What You Missed This Week in Video Games

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