Game has biggest opening week ever

“Grand Theft Auto IV” has surged past “Halo 3″ and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” to set the record for the biggest opening week of any entertainment product.

Publisher Take-Two Interactive is set to confirm today that “Grand Theft Auto IV,” from its Rockstar Games label, sold over six million units in its first week, grossing over $500 million in consumer sales.

The previous videogame record holder was Microsoft’s “Halo 3,” which grossed about $300 million in its first week. That game did have the disadvantage of being available for only the Xbox 360, while “GTA IV” is also available for Sony’s Playstation 3.

“GTA IV” sold approximately 3.6 million units, worth $310 million, on its opening day April 29. Microsoft didn’t release worldwide sales figures for “Halo 3,” though it did reveal that the game grossed $170 million in the U.S. alone.

Comparisons to films are dicey since videogames cost significantly more and don’t move through multiple windows, but it’s notable that “GTA IV” took in significantly more than the $404 million that record holder “Pirates 3″ grossed in its first six days worldwide last summer.

The $500 million-plus figure is even higher than the $400 million that sources close to Take-Two had been expecting based on retailer orders several weeks ago. (Daily Variety, April 16)

Based on early perf and the universally positive reviews the game has received, “GTA IV” has a very good shot at beating the sales figures of previous franchise entry “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” which sold a boffo 21.5 million units, one of the highest totals ever for a videogame.

“‘Grand Theft Auto IV’s’ first week performance represents the largest launch in the history of interactive entertainment, and we believe the retail sales levels surpass any movie or music launch to date,” Take-Two executive chairman Strauss Zelnick said in a statement.

Success comes at a good time for Zelnick and his management team, as they try to fend off a hostile takeover attempt by Electronic Arts. Given the huge expectations for “GTA IV” that were already built into the publisher’s stock, however, it’s not clear if the early sales figures will boost its share price.

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