The (In)credible Rise of Grand Theft Auto

20th September, 2013

Grand Theft Auto VThis week the fifth instalment of the now world renown gaming series Grand Theft Auto  has been released. I am sure that even those without a passing interest in video games have not been untouched by the hype leading up to the launch of this game. Let’s face it, for a video game to have consistent articles in the most read sections of several very credible, extremely well read news outlets shows the massive cultural phenomenon that GTA has become. A game that has had an estimated $175 million spent on development and is predicted to bring home a cool $1.5 billion in revenue – that’s not a bad investment at all.

If we examine the numbers for just a moment we can see that the entire series (up to GTA:IV) has now shipped just under 93 million copies. Other sources put this figure as high as 125 million. And, with the release of GTA:V, this figure is predicted to rise by at least 18-20 million. Hold the phone. What? A potential total of over 145 million copies of GTA – surely this is insane?

Let’s compare those figures with some other large numbers, just for fun:

–          GTA has now outsold Tetris. Tetris, the original addictive puzzle game. Conversely, Mario weighs in with hefty 450+ million units shipped. But that’s another story.

–          If the projected sales reach their target, it would be enough to issue each of Russia’s 143 million residents with a copy, with enough left over to fulfil 2 million Latvian dreams. Alternatively, everyone in the UK could have 2 copies each!

–          In terms of books, the series has now outsold James Bond, The Chronicles of Narnia and Twilight, and is creeping up on Peter Rabbit and Star Wars.

–          In terms of music, GTA has surpassed Dire Straits, The Bee Gees, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart and Fleetwood Mac amongst others. Still a while to go before hitting the top tier here: The Beatles claim a monstrous 600 million sales.

–          Assuming the average DVD case measures 190mm x 135mm, laying out 145 million copies would cover the entirety of Gibraltar…with some left to cover both Monaco and the Vatican City.

Enough about facts and figures. Realistically, we are witnessing one of the most important gaming events in history happening before us, with a studio and game designed in the UK. Whilst I am sure many would disagree, the GTA franchise is a cultural reference point and is something that Great Britain should be incredibly proud of for producing. It is part of the public psyche: politicians bemoan it, mothers and fathers quibble over purchasing, children in the playground will discuss it and most importantly, individuals will indulge its multifaceted, multicultural world.

Love it or loathe it, it’s not every day a multi-billion dollar franchise is born.