While I was away in Las Vegas, Take-Two Interactive announced that Grand Theft Auto IV was slipping out of the fall season. I wasn’t surprised to see the slip, since Take-Two and Rock Star showed so little of the game at E3 and they didn’t show me anything when I visited the Rock Star headquarters just a couple of weeks ago.
This is big. The analysis is coming in from folks. Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, estimates this will shift $100 million in software revenues into next year for game retailers such as GameStop.
But the stores will sell other games instead. That means others with big games are breathing a sigh of relief. The biggest beneficiary of all is Microsoft, since “Halo 3″ is on schedule for its September launch. Back in 2004, Halo 2, GTA III and Madden NFL collectively accounted for a third of all games sold in the holiday season. Electronic Arts will benefit with Madden again here, and other titles like EA’s Crysis for the PC will also probably get a boost. Activision’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare will also have a free run.
Perhaps the biggest blow is to Sony’s PlayStation 3. GTA IV is coming out at the same time on the PS 3 and the Xbox 360. But Sony was going to be the prime beneficiary because it needed the big title to kickstart PS 3 sales. Now I believe there will be a vacuum on the PS 3 this holiday season. There are good games coming on the PS 3, but none, I think, that carry the weight of GTA IV.
What you have in this delay is a godsend for new franchises that can now get a chunk of the sales that GTA IV would have gotten otherwise. Microsoft will probably sell more 360s to players who want to jump in on the Halo 3 phenomenon. And Sony will now probably have to cut the price of the PS 3 again in order to spur buyers into the market this holiday. Take-Two, fortunately, can look forward to the upcoming release of Bioshock. It’s games like that which will have a longer tail now.