'Bioshock' sells 1.5 million units

Shares in Take Two Interactive rose 5% Tuesday after the vidgame publisher announced improved earnings and that its highly lauded new game “Bioshock” has sold a very strong 1.5 million units in its first three weeks on sale.

Take Two has also licensed several of Nickelodeon’s pre-school properties for a new casual games division it is calling 2K Play. Label will make games based on “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!”

Company is currently recovering from an accounting scandal that led to its former CEO making a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. It has a new management team led by chairman Strauss Zelnick.

Revenue was $206.4 million in the quarter ended July 31, down 14%, a drop the company attributed primarily to sales of then-recent “Grand Theft Auto” games last year. Net loss declined 36% to $58.5 million.

“Bioshock” has been the best reviewed vidgame of the year and could be the best-selling non-sequel of the year. In a statement, CEO Ben Feder referred to “Bioshock” as a “franchise,” lending credence to assumptions that there will be a sequel.

Take Two also recently announced that “Manhunt 2,” which previously got an “AO” (Adults Only) rating and was thus unreleasable in the U.S., has been edited and gotten an “M” (mature). It will now be released in October.

Despite that and the success of “Bioshock,” however, Take Two didn’t revise its guidance, which was lowered in August when company delayed “Grand Theft Auto IV” to next spring. Company is expecting $250 million to $300 million in revenue in the current quarter and $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion next fiscal year, ending October 31, 2008. Take Two is expecting to improve from a loss of over $2 per share in the current fiscal year to a profit of between 80 cents and $1 per share next year.

Take Two stock closed at $16.57 Tuesday.

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