GTA Parent Company CEO Is Very Enthusiastic About Generative AI

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Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two, has weighed in with his thoughts on how new technology like generative AI could impact the video game industry. Speaking at the TD Cowen Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference, Zelnick said generative AI will absolutely shake up how games are made, but it will not reduce employment levels.

“Generative AI will allow us to do a bunch of things more efficiently, so we’ll turn out attention to other things. Those other things will probably still be costly and time-consuming,” he said. “I don’t think for a minute that generative AI is going to reduce employment. That’s crazy. That’s actually crazy. It’s not going to make people irrelevant. It’s going to change the nature of certain forms of employment. And that’s a good thing.”

As an example, Zelnick said in the 1870s, around 65-70% of the US population made their living in the agriculture business. Today, that number is around 1-2%. People aren’t working those jobs as much these days because people don’t generally enjoying getting their hands dirty (and increasingly farmers don’t either, Zelnick said, pointing to advancements in automation in the farming business).

“When was the last time you ran into someone who said, ‘It’s horrible. I can’t get a job as a farmer. I’m trying. I’m unemployed. There are no farming jobs for me,'” he said.

Beyond the video game industry, Zelnick foresees “certain people” losing jobs to AI, like those who work in call centers for “routine” things like helping someone buy a sofa online. A pop-up box that shows up on a furniture website helping you make a purchase is already AI in action, and the human who had that job previously may now be working somewhere else and potentially earning more, Zelnick said.

“These are competent people who are highly educated. Better jobs came along that probably pay them more. I’m in a WhatsApp chat with a bunch of Silicon Valley CEOs and the conventional wisdom out there is that AI is going to make us all unemployed. It is just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. The history of productivity tools is that it increases employment. It increases value. It increases yield. It enhances growth. All of these things will happen,” he said.

Shifting back to video games specifically, Zelnick said Take-Two has been in the AI business since its very first days in the form of computer programming. Take-Two has already benefitted from numerous game development tools that have led to many yield efficiencies, he said, and costs have gone up, too.

“Those efficiencies were created, and allowed us to turn our attention to more complex activities that continue to engage and delight consumers,” he said.

Zelnick has been one of the more outspoken video game executives on the subject of AI. Before this, he said AI has a lot of potential for video games, but it won’t allow developers to create a GTA competitor with ease.

“It’s not going to allow someone to say, ‘Please develop the competitor to Grand Theft Auto that’s better than Grand Theft Auto’, and then they just send it out and ship it digitally and that will be that. People will try, but that won’t happen,” Zelnick said.

Take-Two recently announced a dramatic cost-cutting program that led to hundreds of layoffs and numerous game cancellations. Microsoft, too, is heavily invested in AI and also had significant layoffs recently. Electronic Arts, meanwhile, is very enthusiastic about AI and slashed hundreds of jobs.