There's no such thing as bad publicity, so Take-Two Interactive executives must have been rubbing their hands with glee when the launch of its Grand Theft Auto IV was greeted with moral outrage by Christians, parents, teachers and even senior police officials, who warned the game was teaching children how to kill. If you listened carefully, you could already hear the cash registers squealing.
But you have to think early sales figures surpassed even the publisher's wildest expectations. An astonishing 3.6 million copies were sold on the first day, reaching 6 million in a week for total revenues of $US500 million. All of those numbers are records. It is thought to have cost $US100 million to make GTA IV, which is an incredible sum of money to produce a game but looks, in hindsight, to have been money very well spent.
I never thought I'd see the day when a game smashed movie box office and music launch records. Make no doubt about it - gaming is big business.
The warm and fuzzy glow associated with GTA IV spread well beyond the office of Take-Two Interactive. Retailers must have been popping champagne corks as seemingly endless copies of the game rose from the shelves and walked out of stores almost of their own accord. Microsoft was also pleased as punch, claiming the Xbox 360 version of the game accounted for 60 per cent of sales. You can bet they like GTA IV a whole lot more in Redmond than they do in the US bible belt.
Of course, Microsoft and Sony gaming executives needed something to smile about given that the meteoric Nintendo Wii has been pummeling their Xbox and PS3 consoles in recent times. According to an NDP analyst in the US, the launch of Super Smash Bros. Brawl in March saw Wii shift almost as many units (720,000) as Xbox 360 (262,000), PS3 (257,000) and PS2 (216,000) combined. Not bad when you consider that Wii was supposed to be the third horse in the console race.
Former Nintendo president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is smiling more than most (even though his consoles won't play GTA IV) because sales of the Wii have helped make him the richest man in all of Japan, according to the latest annual rankings published recently by Forbes Magazine. Occupying third place last year, Wii swelled his coffers by 38 per cent this year to leave him counting a personal fortune of $US7.8 billion.
And with so much money in gaming, it should come as no surprise to anybody that the world's hippest company has decided it wants a piece of the action too. It seems unlikely that the iPod and iPhone will be followed with an iGame, iBox or iStation but it would be less surprising to see Apple make a play for world domination of the mobile gaming market.
A trademark extension filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office in February last year related to 'hand-held units for playing electronic games' and let's not forget that the iPod Touch and iPhone are both already capable of playing games today. Game on.