‘Grand Theft Auto V’ generates $800 million in 1st day sales

“Grand Theft Auto V,” the latest installment in Rockstar Games’ hit video game series, reaped an eye-popping $800 million in worldwide retail sales on its first day of release Tuesday.

The hotly anticipated game appears to have blown past the one-day retail sales record set by Activision Blizzard Inc., whose “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” brought in $500 million in its first 24 hours of release. That game went on to reach $1 billion in sales in 15 days – faster, many observed, than the box office record-holder “Avatar.”

Take-Two Interactive Software said “Grand Theft Auto V” delivered the highest first-day retail sales of any title in the company’s history. Some fans flocked to stores at midnight to buy the game, which received widespread critical acclaim. About 8,300 stores in North America held midnight openings to meet demand.

“All of us at Take-Two are thrilled with the initial response to ‘Grand Theft Auto V,’ ” said Strauss Zelnick, chairman and chief executive of Take-Two, parent company of Rockstar Games.

Some media analysts projected that “Grand Theft Auto V” would cross the $1-billion retail sales threshold soon, selling roughly 18 million copies of the game.

The $1 billion retail milestone would rank “Grand Theft Auto V” alongside Hollywood’s top box office performers for the year, including Walt Disney Studios’ and Marvel Entertainment’s “Iron Man 3” and Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 2.”

Cowen and Co. media analyst Doug Creutz said the game franchise has seen sustained popularity since “Grand Theft Auto III,” which represented a milestone in open-ended game play and storytelling.

“It felt like you were in a Quentin Tarantino film,” Creutz said. “It had memorable characters and an engaging story line. It was a big step forward in writing for video games and the idea that this could be truly interactive entertainment.”

“Grand Theft Auto V” is set in modern-day Southern California, where players can explore the fictional city of Los Santos, as well as the countryside of Blaine County, plan and execute heists, and engage in a range of activities, from golf to arms trafficking.

The game franchise has been assailed by watchdog groups and others concerned with its depictions of violence.

The Guardian reports that teachers in Britain criticized the game for a brutal interrogation scene, in which one character tortures another by choosing among coercion methods that include pulling out the victim’s teeth, waterboarding and electrocution.

A Rockstar Games spokesman did not respond to a request seeking comment.

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