Published on 17 Sep 2013 Sections ,

We like to be in control: the power of Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto V is expected to smash sales records after going on sale worldwide. Channel 4 News asks how the gaming industry is thriving when others have failed.

Stores across the UK opened their doors at midnight for the special launch of Grand Theft Auto V, which reportedly cost around £170m to make and market.

Online retailer Amazon has already sold out of the game, which cost more to make than many Hollywood blockbusters and, in certain circles, produced a similar hype.

Experts estimate it could generate £1bn in sales during its first year, when gamers are predicted to snap up some 25 million copies, breaking current records.

The success of Grand Theft Auto is in contrast to television. Where TV is moving towards online streaming services such as Netflix, the gaming industry is still largely console-based.

Fantasy of power

“Video games are popular because they give people a fantasy of power over things they can’t control,” journalist and games critic Leigh Alexander told Channel 4 News.

“Unlike media they just watch or listen to, people can take action in games, which I think is a compelling value proposition for people feeling overloaded with information and things to consume.

Games thrive because they make people feel creative. Leigh Alexander, games critic

“Games thrive because they make people feel creative, and there are more ways to play and take games than ever before.”

Patrick O’Luanaigh, a board member of TIGA, the trade association representing the UK video games industry and CEO of nDreams, said that video games can now “be taken on a par with films and television.”

He told Channel 4 News: “[Grand Theft Auto V] is a game of massive scale. It’s got TV adverts, enormous amounts of fantastic writing, human and characterisation. It’s a real entertainment product.

“It cost $265m to make – that’s bigger than any movie other than the last Pirate of the Caribbean.”

Gap in the market

However despite the success of games such as Grand Theft Auto, “there is a real gap in the market,” Mr O’Luanaigh said.

“The big games are still doing very well, but there are fewer and fewer retail games being launched.

“A lot of small companies need support, so we’re trying to bring in the games tax relief, which George Osborne announced about 18 months ago.”

Keza MacDonald, games editor at IGN.com, added: “No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, and there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour and gift for mayhem.

“It tells a compelling, unpredictable, and provocative story without ever letting it get in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas.

“It is one of the very best video games ever made.”