Take Two’s 2K sports games may get canned

Most video game studios are anxiously awaiting the end of 2009, a turbulent year in which video game software and hardware sales flatlined as a sluggish economy continued to take its toll.

Take Two, one of the largest game publishers in the industry, may abandon its sports game business unit due to struggling game sales.

Even though Take Two has several high-profile sports games planned for 2010, investors still anticipate the department will lose money.  This has led to another call for the business to finally throw in the towel, so the company can focus on more profitable game franchises.

Take Two’s NBA2K line is doing just fine — more than 500,000 copies of the 2009 video game have been sold — but its MLB and NFL game titles have failed to compete against similar game titles from Electronic Arts.  The demand for NHL video games, which lacks the large viewership of other professional sports, also has slipped in recent years.

To make matters worse, Take Two will lose its MLB exclusivity deal after the 2011-2012 baseball season.  According to analysts, Take Two pays $30 to $40 million per year to the MLB for the rights to make the MLB-themed games — EA pays slightly more to the NFL, but football games are four times bigger than baseball.

I’ve played a few games in my day, but have very sparingly enjoyed playing Take Two sports games, except for one or two of the company’s NBA game titles.

Take Two also announced it will spin off its Jack of All Games business unit for $43.3 million.  If company executives are unable to develop appealing sports games, cannot attract new consumers, and face criticism from investors, perhaps it is time for Take Two to shut down its sports gaming division.