At first glance it seems like a ludicrous amount of cash, but is Microsoft's reported $50 million shell-out to secure exclusive dibs on two downloadable Grand Theft Auto IV episodes really that crazy? After all, Rockstar's crime epics sell like discounted hot cakes - GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas have shifted somewhere in the region of 35 million copies between them - and no one can deny that the franchise has played a starring role in making Sony's PlayStation 2 the world's most successful console.
In the minds of many gamers, GTA IV is the first essential "next-gen" title and we're willing to bet our limited edition San Andreas basketball that the period aroundthe game's releasewill see a significant spike in console sales. And Xbox 360 is in pole position to capitalize on any such spending frenzy: not only is Microsoft's machine considerably cheaper than its Sony rival, but with the Xbox maker promising "hours of entirely new gameplay" in the two subsequent episodes (the first of which is planned to hit Xbox Live in March 2008) it looks as though it's going to have the most attractive GTA IV package to tempt gamers.
Ultimately, then, it's not about Microsoft recouping its money from the content that it's paid $50 million for - it's about swaying people when they're standing at the counter, cash in hand and deciding which version of GTA IV they're going to buy and, potentially, which console they are going to make a long-term investment in. So, while Microsoft's payout might sound a lot for some downloadable content, in terms of establishing a victor in the console wars we're sure that it will help Xbox 360 gain a significantadvantage over PS3. And we're sure that's something Microsoft would happily raid its piggy bank for, time and time again.
June 19, 2007