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SAN DIEGO (Hollywood Reporter) - While there's little doubt about the power of this week's launch of "Grand Theft Auto IV," there is some question about the video game's legs.
The latest chapter in the wildly popular and controversial criminal action franchise will likely smash the $300 million global first-week sales figure for Microsoft's "Halo 3" in September, but how the game will fare by year's end is subject to debate.
"I think all the preorder programs now in place for these top titles really end up taking the long-term sales out of many games," said Michael Goodman, director of digital entertainment at Yankee Group. "So I don't think 'Grand Theft Auto IV' is going to have those kind of legs."
Many stores are opening up at midnight Monday to accommodate eager customers.
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, parent company of developer Rockstar Games, even suggested that worldwide actual game sales could reach 6 million, generating $400 million for the publisher as it battles a hostile takeover attempt from rival Electronic Arts.
"Halo 3," for example, exhausted 67% of its total U.S. sales-to-date in its first month, and though NPD games analyst Anita Frazier said the game still is selling 100,000 copies a month, it no longer is in the tracking firm's top 10 monthly charts.
But David Cole, president of market research firm DFC Intelligence, stressed that "Grand Theft Auto IV" always has been a different type of franchise. "If you look at 'Halo' titles historically, they've always been the type of games that everybody rushed out to buy, but the 'Auto' titles have always had lots of legs," he said.
Because "Grand Theft Auto" depicts carjacking, murder and other questionable content that has upset parents, Cole noted many people forget that the games are very accessible and have real mass-market appeal, despite their M (for Mature) rating.
Cole said "Grand Theft Auto 3" not only was the best-selling title of 2001 but also the second-best-selling tile of 2002 -- right behind "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City."
From Take-Two's standpoint, Goodman said the expected massive sales for the new title will at the very least give it some breathing room in its efforts to fend off Electronic Arts' $2 billion hostile takeover offer.
"EA is going to have to either up their bid significantly or pull back for six months to a year and hope the 'Grand Theft Auto' hoopla dies down, keeping their fingers crossed that Take-Two is not on a winning streak," he added.