4:35 PM EDT, September 18, 2013
Grand Theft Auto 5 was one of the most anticipated releases of the fall, and now publisher Take Two has the numbers to prove it. The controversial crime sim made over $800 million in sell-through in 24 hours - literally twice what Stern Agee analyst Avind Bhatia had projected after early reviews came back overwhelmingly positive. By way of comparison, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold $500 million in its first 24 hours.
"InNorth Americaalone, more than 8,300 stores opened their doors at midnight to welcome fans whose loyalty and enthusiasm were rewarded with what TheNew York Timescalled 'the most immersive spectacle in interactive entertainment,'" Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a press release. " We are incredibly proud of Rockstar Games' creative achievement and could not be more pleased with the success of this launch."
Take Two's stock plunged when Rockstar announced last winter that its game would be delayed, but this should serve as proof that some games are immune to that sort of problem. If anything, the delays only gave fans more time to get excited. GTA is different from most other blockbuster franchises in that it comes out very, very rarely - whereas Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed are now on solidly annualized schedules, It's been five years since the last Grand Theft Auto. Playing the game, it's clear where that time was spent - it is built on an absolutely unprecedented scale.
It's also important to remember that normal sales are only one part of what's going to make money for this game. Open world games are fabulous platforms for DLC, and if GTA 4 is any guide, we're sure to see some solid post-release content. In addition, we still haven't seen much of GTA Online, but I imagine that there's going to be some kind of monetization stream in there as well, though maybe not right away. Each copy of GTA 5 that Take Two sold today is as much a potential customer for future business as it is a one time sale.
There's been a lot of talk about the decline of the video game industry, but this game is a microcosm of the broader story this year. Demand for big, AAA games isn't flagging, it's just been waiting for the right products. Between GTA, the usual yearly releases and new consoles from both Microsoft and Sony, it's going to be a big year for games.