I love Rockstar Games.
But I’ve said that before. I admire the marketing savvy of its sales teams, the satirical slant of its writers, and the beauty of its game design. Rockstar Games is an industry titan and its accolades are well deserved.
So when its parent company, Take Two Interactive, announced its foray into the comic book industry I was ecstatic. I envisioned a series of Grand Theft Auto graphic novels that bridged the gap between Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto IV. I anticipated the release of a Max Payne miniseries in the same vein as The Punisher sans the justified censorship of the Disney corporation. I imagined a satirical look at internet bullies and red pillers with a comedic action series based off Bully.
And I believed the successes would extend far past the realm of Rockstar Games to other intellectual properties under the Take Two banner such as Bioshock and Mafia—two 2K Games darlings.
That, however, did not happen.
What did happen was the launch of Double Take, a small company focused on a slate of comics set in the Night of the Living Dead universe helmed by former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas. That company has now gone under for a host of reasons I shall not go into here. Others, however, have provided an interesting post-mortem.
What I am focused on is how best to get the future I envisioned onto the printed page. I do not believe that Take Two Interactive should launch yet another comic company; I do believe it should partner with an existing one—IDW Publishing. In a short amount of time IDW has become the king of licensed publishing, challenged only by perennial purchaser DC Comics. It has the skills to successfully push favored brands in the comic book marketplace while adhering closely to themes and designs established in other media.
For Take Two Interactive a partnership with IDW is outsourced research, marketing, and development. The comics produced at IDW would provide frames for new games to be built upon. The books would also bolster brand allegiance during the space between game releases. For example, characters introduced in the comics could pop up as new options during multiplayer games. And most importantly, Take Two Interactive would have the opportunity to use IDW as a talent scout and poach artists and writers accordingly.
But what would IDW get out of the deal? Well, increased exposure is nice, but I’d argue that increased revenue would be much nicer. Were I an IDW representative I would push for a fiscally conservative licensing package given all that I would be bringing to the table. But in the back of my mind I would also acknowledge that, if successful, a Take Two imprint would increase the size of my company allowing me to overtake BOOM and nip at Image’s heels. I would also be certain to act as a liaison for the individuals at my company working on creator-owned projects who might have an interest in pushing their works into additional entertainment realms.
I would advise the two companies to start small—but not too small. Start with one major intellectual property such as Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto. Should that partnership conclude successfully? Continue to build.