COMMENT: Something like a phenomenon

It’s a phenomenon to top any that our industry has produced before. It is a talking point as much as it is a lucrative product for retail.

It’s the swapping of anecdotes which has set forums ablaze with talk of this game – stories involving epic car chases, against-the-odds escapes and instances of that trademark Rockstar humour that are described with as much verve as if the gamers recounting these tales were living through the experience themselves.

But it’s not just the kids on the internet – in the past few weeks I’ve had countless conversations about GTA with friends who I never realised took the slightest interest in games.

Much of the specialist games media is notorious for its over-zealous enthusiasm, but the praise levelled at GTA in the recent weeks has, for once, gone some way to reflect the excitement outside the bubble of our fine industry.

The importance of this game to the industry cannot be overstated; it’s no surprise that EA has borrowed an extra billion dollars to ensure that its bid for Take Two finally gets forced through.

And there’s more to come. Microsoft’s smart (and according to many reports, expensive) deal for downloadable content on Xbox Live will undoubtedly push many thousands of new gamers online.

And beyond that, there’s more. As I write this, we are still hours from discovering the fate of Take Two, and therefore GTA.

We’ve heard Sam Houser buttering up his potential new boss John Riccitiello this week by describing him as ‘the real deal’. His comments are encouraging; many feared that EA’s acquistion of Take Two would prompt a creative exodus.

Riccitiello may be a tough cookie, but there’s no doubt that he’s smart enough to give Rockstar complete creative control should the deal go through; it’d be madness to break up a Rockstar North team that has the happy habit of producing interactive masterpieces.

EA’s resources as a publisher should bring games retailers even greater sales when Grand Theft Auto V finally rolls around. But until then, GTA IV is quite enough to keep most gamers happy. The trouble developers face now is producing games that match its epic scale and sheer quality. A tough task indeed.

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