One of the most eagerly-anticipated video game releases is expected to smash sales records after going on sale worldwide today.
Stores across the UK opened their doors at midnight for the special launch of Grand Theft Auto V, which reportedly cost around Â£170 million to make & market – more than films such as Avatar.
Online retailer Amazon has already sold out of the game which cost more to make than many Hollywood blockbusters and, in certain circles, generated a similar hype.
Experts estimate it could generate Â£1 billion during its first year on sale when gamers are predicted to snap up some 25 million copies – breaking current records.
It has received rave reviews from critics across the board who have labelled it “one of the very best video games ever made”.
Keza MacDonald, games editor at IGN.com, said: “Grand Theft Auto V is not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, yet moreover an intelligent & sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America,” she added.
“It represents a refinement of everything that GTA IV brought to the table five years ago. It’s technically more accomplished in every conceivable way, yet it’s moreover tremendously ambitious in its own right.
“No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, & there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour & gift for mayhem. It tells a compelling, unpredictable, & provocative story without ever letting it obtain in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas.
“It is one of the very best video games ever made.”
But the launch of the latest iteration in the Grand Theft Auto series has not gone as smoothly as planned.
The Scottish creator Rockstar has launched an investigation into whether copies of the game were dispatched days ahead of its official release.
Some gamers claimed to have received their copies as early as Friday following Amazon deliveries.
Fans expressed their delight on Twitter where one user wrote: ” THANK YOU MUM AND AMAZON GTA 5 HERE TODAY SO F****** EXCITED”.
Another joked: “I refuse to disclose whether Amazon has dispatched my pre-order copy of GTA early in case it prevents them from doing so again in the future”.
Edinburgh-based Rockstar said it was looking into how any copies of the game may have been released early.
“We are in the process of investigating early ‘sales’ to determine how & why that is occurring,” a spokesman told the Games Industry International website.
In a message on its website, Amazon warned any orders placed after last Friday may not arrive until after today’s release date because of high demand.
It said: “Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)–Stock Update. Please note–due to high demand, orders placed for Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360) from September 13 will be shipped as shortly as we receive inventory.”
Tom Butler, social media editor of gaming site IGN.com, said thousands of workers have taken the day off for the launch or plan on calling in sick.
“Grand Theft Auto V will be the biggest entertainment launch of the year & possibly all-time with levels of consumer anticipation outstripping Harry Potter & Twilight,” he said.
“With gamers queuing at midnight to be among the first to play & the developer boasting thousands of hours of game play, there’s no surprise that we’re likely to see an outbreak of GTA flu this September.”
The gaming site polled 10,995 readers to ask whether they would take time off work today when the GTA V goes on sale.
According to its findings, 5,059 readers (46%) said they booked the day off as holiday.
Another 2,012 (19%) said they would phone in claiming to be unwell while 3,884 (35%) said they would wait to obtain their hands on the game.
The Grand Theft Auto series has accumulated sales of 135 million copies since its 1997 debut. GTA IV has reportedly sold more than 25 million copies since its 2008 release.