THE much-anticipated Grand Theft Auto V (GTA5) video game was expected to smash sales records last night, hours after it hit shops worldwide.
Early sales and pre-orders sent it rocketing to the top of Amazon’s bestsellers’ list, and at one point yesterday the online trader’s site was down to its last four copies for the Xbox 360.
Estimates by analysts that the ultra-violent crime game, produced by Scottish games designers Rockstar, would hit sales of 14 million within the first month looked accurate as, across Scotland, hundreds of fans lined up outside HMV and Game stores on Monday night for special midnight openings.
The game, which debuted in 1997, is set in the gangland world of the fictional city of Los Santos. It has attracted as much criticism for its depiction of criminality and its alleged sexism as it has praise for setting the gold standard for gameplay and graphics.
In Glasgow, the Game outlet in St Enoch Square saw crowds of more than 150 waiting to collect early-bird copies. Similar scenes were repeated at HMV on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, where more than 200 people queued for copies.
HMV shop assistant Darren Muir, said: “We had three people on the tills and we worked for an hour non-stop. It was crazy.”
Fans also braved the cold in Aberdeen on Monday night to pick up orders. Jack North, 21, queuing outside Game on Union Street, said: “I’m here because I want to relive my childhood again. I spent 2,000 hours playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and I’m definitely going to do the same with this one.
“I’ve got work in the morning so I won’t be up all night playing this, but I’ve got a week-and-a-half off next week so I can play the game day and night then.”
David Wright, 23, said: “I’ve never really been into the GTA series as I prefer multi-player games to solo ones, but my pals have been on the phone telling me how brilliant it was and I felt I had to get it for myself.”
Chris Maclaurin, 21, was in a similar position: “I don’t buy many games but this really appeals to me. It’s not the violence so much as the ‘sand box’ thing, where you can go off and do what you like.”
One Game staff member who had played GTAV agreed: “It’s a living, breathing city. You can do what you like – play tennis or golf, do yoga, go hunting or just take a walk along the beach. I tried just driving from one end of the city to the other, and it took me 30 minutes. It’s an unbelievable achievement and easily game of the year for me.”
Critics were almost universal in their praise for the latest version of the game, in particular the ability to explore the city and simply pass the time without taking part in any of the game’s crime-related missions.
One said it was “the first game in the series where you feel as though you can strike out in any direction and find something entertaining to do,” while another described it as “not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, but also an intelligent and sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America”.
Market strategist Ishaq Siddiqi said the company expects 14 million copies to be sold in the first month of release, making £503 million to £630m.
“The game cost an estimated £170m to develop at Rockstar North so the game developer stands to book a hefty profit on sales in the first month.”
A man who picked up one of the first copies of Grand Theft Auto V when shops opened at midnight was stabbed and robbed of the game as he made his way home.
The 23-year-old, who was attacked after he left an Asda store in north London, was said to be recovering in hospital and in a stable condition last night.
He was hit with a brick, stabbed and stripped of his mobile phone, watch and his copy of the game near the supermarket.