Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two says it's established new long-term agreements with the Houser brothers and other members of wholly owned label Rockstar Games' creative team, putting to rest speculation on what might become of the publisher without them.
"We are excited to continue our partnership with the new management team at Take-Two, who have helped us to protect the unique atmosphere that fosters creativity and innovation," says Rockstar founder and executive producer Sam Houser.
Under the Housers' stewardship, Rockstar projects like Grand Theft Auto have been a major source of sustenance for the publisher, and industry-watchers wondered whether they would remain with Take-Two when their contract expires in February 2009.
Today's announcement, however, ensures that the Rockstar creative team will remain employees of Take-Two's wholly-owned studio until January 31, 2012.
Alongside the agreement, Take-Two will restructure the way it shares profits with Rockstar going forward, as part of a new incentives and compensation agreement with the studio.
Those same "key Rockstar Games team members" will effectively form their own company to develop "certain new intellectual properties," which will be exclusively published and funded by Take-Two -- though Rockstar maintains IP ownership.
"We're delighted with the extension and expansion of Take-Two's relationship with the Rockstar team," says Take-Two Board chairman Strauss Zelnick. "The talent and creativity at Rockstar are unparalleled in our industry."
"Their dedication to making extraordinary games has captured the enthusiasm of millions of fans around the world and has contributed enormously to establishing Take-Two as a force in the global video game marketplace and advancing our goal to become the most creative and most innovative company in the industry," Zelnick adds.
"In addition, this new chapter in our successful relationship further aligns the interests of our creative teams with those of our shareholders."
[UPDATE: On the company's fourth quarter results call to investors, Board chairman Strauss Zelnick further clarified the arrangement with Rockstar.
"The key elements here in this deal are our continued relationships with the top talent in the biz," he emphasized, as analysts pressed for the particulars of Rockstar's new IP.
The aim of the profit-sharing elements of the deal, Zelnick clarified, is to "make sure the interests of everyone who works with Take-Two are aligned with the interests of our shareholders. We're pleased and proud that our entire team is up for that, and excited about that."
"In addition," Zelnick elaborated, "There's an entrepreneurial opportunity for the key talent with whom we have a relationship to develop new, incremental IP that they own and will be exclusiely published by Take-Two."
Zelnick wouldn't speak on how many individual projects there would be or any development plans were in the works, but said, "The key point is, the more triple-A products... the better it is for our company," adding that creative opportunities for key talent is a "win-win."
"The bulk of [Rockstar's] activities will be related to what they've done before," he added. "The key activity is the ongoing activity. These are immensely creative people, and we believe [we have] successfully aligned... interest and creative opportunity to create more hit titles."]