(Corrects spelling of "Scorsese" in last paragraph)
(Adds Take-Two share price, details of takeover bid)
By Aarthi Sivaraman and Phil Furey
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES, April 29 "Grand Theft
Auto 4" went on sale on Tuesday, with fans lining up to grab
the first copies of the criminal action game hailed as a brutal
and satirical masterpiece equal to films like "The Godfather."
Retailers such as GameStop Corp (GME.N) and Best Buy Co Inc
(BBY.N) took advance orders for the game weeks earlier and many
outlets threw open their doors at midnight to accommodate fans
eager to be among the first to play.
The launch of "Grand Theft Auto 4" is expected to be the
biggest entertainment event of the year, with first-week sales
forecast to be up to $400 million, beating those of last year's
"Halo 3" from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).
At a GameStop store in midtown Manhattan, excited fans like
John Alba and Enmanuel Lorenzo stood for hours in a line that
nearly reached the end of the block.
"It gives you the opportunity to escape reality," Alba
said. "This game has everything -- sex, drugs, cars, money ...
anything you want."
The game casts players as an Eastern European immigrant who
runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes after falling
in with a crime syndicate -- stuff that has drawn fire from
family groups and politicians.
GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc (TTWO.O)
said it would release initial sales data later this week or
early next week. Strong early results could help the company's
bargaining position as it faces a $2 billion takeover offer
from rival Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O.
Take-Two management has rejected EA's offer as too low and
has insisted on waiting until after the game's launch before
"Come Wednesday, for sure we're willing to talk," Chief
Executive Ben Feder told Reuters on Monday.
Take-Two shares rose 16 cents on Tuesday to close at $26.63
on Nasdaq, the seventh straight day it has finished higher than
EA's offer price of $25.74 per share, in a sign that investors
expect EA will have to dig deeper to seal the deal.
The release of "Grand Theft Auto 4", originally scheduled
for October last year, was pushed back until Tuesday to put
extra polish on the ambitious game.
Some viewed the late release positively.
"It was actually a very smart move on their part to move it
back because it gave a lot of people an opportunity to upgrade
their systems ... so now there's actually a bigger chance of
people going out and grabbing this game," said Chris Arsada,
general manager of a GameStop store in Los Angeles.
Judging from early reviews, "Grand Theft Auto 4" -- the
latest version of the hit franchise made by Take-Two's Rockstar
studio -- appears on track to be the best-rated video game ever
and one that could cement video games as a serious art form.
"'Grand Theft Auto IV' is a violent, intelligent, profane,
endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly
compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun," The New
York Times said.
Based on more than a dozen reviews compiled by Metacritic,
a widely tracked aggregator of gaming reviews, the version of
GTA4 for Sony Corp's (6758.T) PlayStation 3 game console has
scored a perfect 100, while that for Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O)
Xbox 360 achieved a 99.
"Rockstar's magnum opus is a modern-day masterpiece that
could change the way the world views video games," gaming news
and reviews Web site GameSpy wrote, awarding the game a perfect
"You'll quickly come to realize that the nuanced story
telling and presentation is on par with the finest films by
directors like Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola."
(Additional reporting by Scott Hillis in San Francisco;
Editing by Quentin Bryar and Braden Reddall)