Take-Two Interactive’s Legal Level Up

Dan Emerson’s department keeps pace with video game innovators to clear the path for Take-Two Interactive’s dominance in the entertainment industry

Take-Two Interactive’s journey to global success is lined with challenges as action-packed as the blockbuster entertainment experiences that the company creates. The continuous development of technology within the industry requires Dan Emerson and his legal department to ensure that Take-Two Interactive can always take its business to the next level. As executive vice president and general counsel for Take-Two, Emerson focuses on keeping his team closely aligned to the business so that they can be involved as early as possible in the company’s highly complex development and publishing process. In addition, he ensures that all of the key stakeholders are effectively communicating, whether it’s someone on the business side or fellow lawyers.

But Emerson’s history with Take-Two goes back further than his employment with the company. Earlier in his career, he worked on some of Take-Two’s key acquisitions while a partner in the New York office of Blank Rome LLP, where he represented public and private companies in mergers and acquisitions, securities law, financing, and general corporate matters. Take-Two’s team highly regarded Emerson’s work, and in 2005, the interactive entertainment company brought him in as a vice president in its small, two-person legal department.

Emerson says his decision to make the move was easy. “I saw it as a chance to join a young and leading company in what we believe to be the most dynamic and rapidly growing segment of the entertainment industry,” he says. “What’s unique about our business is that it resides at the intersection of creativity and cutting-edge technology. That combination, especially from a legal perspective, is very interesting.”

Emerson says he also enjoys being around the creative process. “We work with some of the most talented and passionate people in the world at Take-Two and at our wholly owned publishing labels—Rockstar Games and 2K—and it rubs off,” he says. “We’re often at the forefront of innovation as new business models are adopted, and we’re constantly encountering new legal challenges to support those initiatives.

In 2009, Take-Two promoted Emerson to senior vice president and deputy general counsel. Then in 2013, he was assigned to head the legal and business affairs practice in Asia. In that role, Emerson was based in Singapore for more than a year and was charged with building the company’s legal function in Asia.

He worked closely with the Singapore-based business development group while facilitating communications with executive management in the United States. “Working in that role autonomously was somewhat of a microcosm of my current role,” Emerson recalls. “I was able to have some of the same responsibilities in a more limited geographic location. I was also exploring new business models to support our core business, in particular, online games.”

One year later, Take-Two promoted Emerson to his current role and brought him back to the New York headquarters, where he has since grown the legal department to twenty-seven lawyers spread across seven locations around the world.

His focus now is ensuring that the department runs as lean and efficiently as it did when it was a much smaller division. “My focus has been to operate the department as more of a global law firm,” Emerson says. “I’m a big believer in integrating the legal function with the business and having a fluid system where all of our lawyers are part of the same team and can all work together and help each other out.”

Emerson refers to the legal team as an “octopus with tentacles that reach throughout the entire enterprise and can often be the conveyor of important information and facilitator of cooperation from one part of the business to another.”

Emerson’s role also has plenty of facets, including helping Take-Two drive long-term engagement and recurrent consumer spending after the initial game purchase. That encompasses virtual currency sales for core products such as Grand Theft Auto and NBA 2K, as well as add-on content for a myriad of offerings and online gaming, including NBA 2K Online in China.

“The legal group helps the business navigate the legal framework to achieve that,” Emerson says. “Digitally delivered content, including recurrent consumer spending, is a part of our business that didn’t exist five years ago, and in fiscal year 2016, it accounted for 26 percent of our non-GAAP revenue.”

Part of the framework is a firm understanding of data privacy laws for all of the different countries where Take-Two products are sold. Emerson says that he has cultivated expertise in global privacy laws within the Take-Two legal team, and he tries to take a uniform, global approach with privacy and compliance as much as possible.

Often, it’s not possible. He explains that European countries have been particularly aggressive with their privacy laws, and other markets are following suit. Laws, however, are often a few steps behind business models, which compels Emerson to anticipate changes. “As our business and industry continue to innovate, the laws are not always specifically tailored with our business in mind,” he says. “We monitor the enforcement practices and see how the laws are being interpreted so that we can make sure we’re acting appropriately.”

Above all, Emerson continues, is ensuring the company’s customers, no matter where they are, have positive experiences with Take-Two’s products. That’s why he has guided the business to be transparent with customers when it collects their information. “We want to make sure [consumers] understand what we’re doing with the information we’re collecting from them,” he says. “We want them to make an informed decision.”

Reflecting on his career at Take-Two thus far, Emerson says he feels a responsibility to offer members of his legal department the ability to grow professionally. “I feel fortunate to have been here for more than ten years and have been able to grow significantly personally while the company has had continued success,” Emerson says. “A focus of mine is to make sure people here have the same opportunities for advancement and growth.”

Emerson has never stopped learning new things about the business and global law, and that adaptability has allowed him to be just as dynamic as the gaming industry he represents.