‘Grand Theft Auto’ Smashes Records With $1 Billion Sales

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. said retail sales of its “Grand Theft Auto V” video game surpassed $1 billion in three days, hitting that mark faster than any other game or movie.

The title, a mayhem-filled fantasy of thug life in Southern California, reached the mark sooner than any other entertainment property, New York-based Take-Two said today in a statement. “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” from Activision Blizzard Inc., took 15 days in 2012, while the Walt Disney Co. film “Marvel’s The Avengers” made it in 19 days.

The results validate game developers’ strategy of releasing fewer, high-quality games to an audience hungry for fresh content. Publishers this year are poised to benefit from an installed base of as many as 100 million working Xbox 360s from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. PlayStation 3s, according to Michael Olson, an analyst with Piper Jaffray Cos.

“This is a sign that major titles can still perform well in the midst of this console transition period,” Olson wrote in an e-mail today. “As we’ve moved into the later stages of this console cycle, gamer wallet share has shifted to an increasing focus on the top several games, enabling those titles to perform well, while lower-end titles are pressured.”

Take-Two fell 2.5 percent to $16.99 at the close in New York. The shares have advanced 54 percent this year.

Crushing Estimates

“Grand Theft Auto V,” which cost as much as $250 million to develop and market, shattered Olson’s estimate for sales of $1 billion in the first month. Yesterday he raised his projection to unit sales of 17 million by month’s end from 14 million, which he says has been reached already.

By comparison, Apple Inc. is projected to sell 6 million new iPhones over its three-day opening weekend, according to Gene Munster, also an analyst with Piper Jaffray. The estimate suggests sales of about $3.5 billion, or more than three times the revenue total for “Grand Theft Auto.”

Almost 30 titles from major publishers are scheduled for release before the end of the year, including Electronic Arts Inc.’s “Battlefield 4” and Activision’s “Skylanders Swap Force” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts.”

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, and Tokyo-based Sony will introduce the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 in November, ahead of the Christmas selling season.

The video-game industry is banking on the new consoles as it struggles to revive growth as customers defect to cheaper games online, on tablets and on smartphones.

The results will also help GameStop Corp., the biggest specialty retailer of video games and equipment, Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a research note yesterday.

GameStop, based in Grapevine, Texas, fell 4.7 percent to $49.43 today in New York. The shares have almost doubled this year.

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