It cost £170 million to make and is set to pull in more than £1 billion in sales – so no wonder thousands of game fans queued until midnight to get their hands on Grand Theft Auto 5.
Stores across the UK opened their doors at midnight for the special launch of the game and branches across the Black Country and Staffordshire were besieged by hundreds of game lovers.
Online retailer Amazon has already sold out this morning. Experts estimate it could sell 25 million copies – breaking current records.
It has received rave reviews from reviewers across the board who have labelled it ‘one of the very best video games ever made’, but also attracted criticism for its on screen violence despite its 18 age rating.
Mike Brookes, manager of Game in Walsall, had 500 fans at his door as the clock struck 12 and said staff had been preparing for months. “It’s by far the biggest game launch we’ve ever done.”
“The atmosphere has been fantastic.
“I’d say more than 1,000 people came through the shop during the night. "
The game, which has been criticised in some quarters for its violent and sinister themes which see players stalk the streets of a virtual reality city armed with an arsenal of weapons, was selling for £44.99, or £59.99 for a ‘special edition’.
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However, the launch has not gone as smoothly as planned.
The Scottish creator Rockstar has launched an investigation into whether copies were dispatched ahead of its official release. Some gamers claimed to have received their copies as early as Friday following Amazon deliveries.
The series has sales of 135 million since its 1997 debut – GTA 4 alone sold more than 25 million copies.
Frantic game fans descended on Wolverhampton city centre for the launch.
Customers were waiting to get their copy from Game in the Wulfrun Centre at midnight with some reporting queues stretching out of the centre and along Dudley Street.
Today around 50 customers, who had pre-ordered the game as long as a year ago, were waiting for the latest in the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
Robert Long, 26, from Willenhall said: “I was waiting in the queue for an hour. I don’t get those that were queuing up last night – I wouldn’t because it’s too cold for a start. My brother got me into the GTA games and I’ve played them ever since.”
At Game in Park Street, Walsall, almost 500 fans were waiting when the doors opened at midnight while dozens queued at the Dudley branch.
Among them was Kathleen Love, who was buying the game for her grandson Sam. The family had pre-ordered the game in January and Mrs Love queued for 40 minutes to get the game.
Her husband Charlie, aged 70, said: “It’s crazy, I know some people were queuing up overnight. We weren’t going to do that, but it still took long enough though. I hope he likes it.”
This was the first midnight opening of 2013 for the Walsall store after several special launches last year, including Call Of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield and FIFA.
First in the queue was 18-year-old Jake Startin, of Botany Road, Walsall, who headed the line for six hours, beginning his vigil as the shop was closing at the end of normal trading at 6pm.
The Walsall College IT student said: “I wanted to be here. It’s the best game at the moment.
“It’s got a great range of things you can do.
“There’s been a lot of hype around it but I’m expecting it will have been well worth the wait.”
Matthew Horton, 21, of Leamore, said: “This is the first time I’ve queued for a game but it’s a huge release and could possible sell out by midday so I wanted to make sure I’d got it.
“Looking at the queue I’d say I made the right decision.”
Razwan Bashir, aged 27, his brother Arslaan, 18, and their friend Khurram Yousaf, 26, all from Birchills, Walsall, arrived at the shop at 8.30pm, earning themselves a plastic-backed picture of the game’s three main characters, a gift to the first 30 customers.
Khurran, a customer returns officer for Amazon in Rugeley, was back at work today but has booked the next two weeks off to devote himself to the GTA challenge.
“I pre-ordered the game nearly a year ago, on November 5, which was the first possible date you could do it.
“I’m really excited, I’ve been counting down the days to this moment,” he said.
Bilston college student Robert Durnin, 22, was kept company in the queue by his father, Robert Durnin senior, aged 52, of Pinfold Street, Darlaston.
He forked out £120 for the collection, which included the game, book, hat and other paraphernalia.
“I’m just addicted,” said Robert.
Factory worker Shaun McLoughlin, 21, from Nechells, Birmingham, joined friend Christopher Heaton, 19, of Oakwood Road, Blakenall, Walsall, in the queue.
He said: “I’ve come to Walsall because none of my mates back home were prepared to queue. I got here at around 9.30pm. I’m a big fan.”
Christopher said: “The last midnight launch I went to, for Black Ops II, I left at 11pm and didn’t get served until 2.30am, so I’ve saved a bit of waiting time this time round but my legs are aching now and I’ve called my sister to give us a lift home.
“I’m hoping the game’s going to be amazing.”
Gavin Eades, of Walsall Wood, who was with his friend Alex Checkley, 19, of Clayhanger, had booked the day off work at Brownhills-based Pyramid Profiles to spend with his new purchase.
The 26-year-old fabricator, who queued for two hours, said: “We’ve been waiting five years for this.”
Are you spending the day playing Grand Theft Auto 5. Share your first impressions of the game (no spoilers!) in the comments below: