HARRY Potter has been left spellbound by another fictional character created in Edinburgh - a joyrider who shoots down pedestrians with a machine gun.
The schoolboy wizard may sell millions of books worldwide, but in the world of computer games he has come second best to the violent hero of Grand Theft Auto.
A new version of the controversial car driving game has become the biggest-selling computer release to be made for the PlayStation2.
Grand Theft Auto III, designed by a small Leith-based firm, easily outsold the Harry Potter computer game over the crucial Christmas period, despite its rival’s tie-in with a hit Hollywood film.
Sales of the game, which costs 40, have already topped 500,000 in the UK alone and it is still top of the charts 11 weeks after it was released. The Harry Potter game is in second place.
The figures mean Grand Theft Auto III has sold more than twice the number of copies of any previous game for the PlayStation2.
While some parents have expressed misgivings about the darker storylines in Harry Potter, the action in Grand Theft Auto makes them look like tales from Beatrix Potter.
The first version of the game was greeted with outrage from police when it was launched in the early 1990s, after players were apparently rewarded for shooting officers during car chases and killing pedestrians in hit-and-run accidents.
"It is quite violent but the game has definitely broken new ground," said Dan Dawkins, news editor of the computer magazine PSM2.
"The success of the game shows that computer games consoles are not just for children. It is an adult game and yet it has been the best-selling game so far. It has been top of the charts for weeks and will probably stay there for some weeks to come."
Patricia Lennon, a spokeswoman for the industry body, European Leisure Software Publishers, said Grand Theft Auto had shown "phenomenal" sales since its release.
Grand Theft Auto III was created by DMA Design, which has its offices in Leith, but the company is apparently reluctant to trumpet its success. No-one there was willing to comment yesterday.