By Chip Lebovitz
FORTUNE -- 2012 was supposed to be a banner year for video game maker Take-Two Interactive. The spring was supposed to mark the triumphant return of Max Payne, one of the gaming world's traditional heavyweight franchises. But positive reviews, eight years of development, and one of the company's largest marketing campaigns ever couldn't convince gamers to purchase Max Payne 3, the franchise's latest installment.
Take-Two (TTWO) had had a rough go of it lately, and in July the company missed analyst's estimates for the second straight quarter. With no release date in sight for Grand Theft Auto V -- the latest sequel to the company's best-known and most profitable franchise -- Take-Two must rely on space western shooter Borderlands 2, which hits shelves this week.
Take Two is also likely hoping that Borderlands can help the company rely a little bit less on Grand Theft Auto. Despite the lack of updates to the franchise, Grand Theft Auto product sales accounted for almost 14% of the company's net revenue in fiscal year 2012. As of September 2011, Grand Theft Auto titles had sold 20 million more units then the rest of Take-Two's catalogue combined. That's over six times the number of games sold by Take-Two's second most successful franchise.
This unbridled success has given Grand Theft Auto's in-house developer, Rockstar Games, free reign over the studio's development process. Rockstar takes a considerable amount of time between releasing its games (the latest Grand Theft Auto game was released in 2008), driving up Take-Two's overall development costs. More
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