Grand Theft Auto V Making Shareholders, Creators Rich

Grand Theft Auto V sales reached $1 billion in the first three days.

ByABC News
September 20, 2013, 8:35 AM

Sept. 20, 2013 -- Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) sales are racing away like a carjacker.

This latest iteration of the violent videogame, which retails for about $55, had sales of $800 million on Wednesday, its first day out, hijacking the previous record for first-day sales set by Grand Theft Auto IV ($310 million). On Friday, the company said estimated sales of the game reached $1 billion during its first three days, saying it was the fastest any entertainment property, including video games and feature films, reached that milestone.

Analysts had expected GTA V's sales to hit $1 billion by month's end.

According to the Associated Press, a man in London was stabbed and robbed of his copy, minutes after the new game went on sale there. In the U.S., three men were arrested for impersonating police officers, so they could circumvent the waiting line to buy, according to the New York Daily News.

Where's all that money going? Somewhere in the world right now, you have to imagine, somebody is lighting his cigar with a $1,000 bill and lolling on the beach, thanks to GTA V's blockbuster status.

Investors, certainly, are profiting. They might include you, if your 401(k) has any stock in New York's Take-Two Interactive Software, parent company of the game's maker, Rockstar Games. In an analyst's report earlier today, Michael Patcher of Wedbush said the game's performance had "exceeded our bullish expectations," adding, "we believe there could be upside to our estimates." The stock closed up Thursday to $17.43 and the shares are up more than 50 percent this year. Bank of America analyst Justin Post gave it a "buy" rating.

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According to public filings, the largest private shareholder in Take-Two is financier and corporate raider Carl Icahn's Icahn Associates, which, with a little over 12 million shares, owns about 13 percent of the company. Mutual funds that own the stock include Fidelity, Vanguard, and TIAA-CREF.

It's likely some of the creative talent responsible for the game's success—including programmer Alex Hadjadj, artist Aaron Garbut, and writers Dan Houser, Rupert Humphries and Michael Unsworth—are getting rewards over and above the appreciation of any stock they own. Asked by ABC News what employees were making out like bandits, a spokesman for Take-Two declined to say.

Writer Dan Houser, co-founder of Rockstar and its vice president of creativity, has been a contributor to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, since its inception two decades ago, according to London's Guardian newspaper. In a September interview with the Guardian, Houser says that of the many hit games for which he's been responsible—including Max Payne and Red Dead Redemption—GTA was his favorite.

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If he loved any of his "children" more, he said, he loved GTA best.

The writer did not address his profit participation in GTA V, but he did address the game's huge cost, which analysts have put as high as $265 million, which would make it the most expensive videogame ever. It required, says the Guardian, four years of development, a team of 250 people, and a 1,000-page script.

So, it's not as if, once the bills are paid, there will be $1 billion to distribute.

Asked by the Guardian if he would ever consider a film version of Grand Theft, Houser said no, that the licensing fee would not be worth the extra bother. He confirmed, though, that studios had approached him and Rockstar several times.

"The money's never been close to worth risking one's crown jewels," he explained. "Our small dabblings with Hollywood have always left us running back to games. The freedom we have to do what we want creatively is of enormous value."

Watch: Men Pose As Cops to Buy 'Grand Theft Auto V'