LONDON (AFP) – Fans of “Grand Theft Auto V” on Tuesday got their first chance to play the latest version of the brutally violent blockbuster video game franchise after many queued for hours to buy it.
Rockstar Games spent five years crafting the title with a rumored production budget of $270 million (202 million euros), dwarfing the outlay on some Hollywood films.
The game sparked a stampede in the Netherlands while store shelves emptied in other countries in Asia and Europe as soon as it went on sale.
In Britain, a man was stabbed and had his copy stolen minutes after he picked it up in a supermarket.
For hundreds of thousands of fans around the world of the high-speed chases around a city styled to look like Los Angeles, the time and money invested in the new version has paid off, according to a slew of reviews that give it top marks.
“You can really see the maturity in this version, the graphics look sensational — it really is like being in a virtual copy of LA,” said computerandvideogames.com digital manager John Houlihan.
“This really is a blockbuster that almost dwarfs the movies in some way,” he told AFP, describing it as a “cultural phenomenon”.
In Britain, thousands of copies were delivered to avid fans, many of whom took the day off to play the game the minute it arrived from online retailers.
An investigation was also launched into how copies of the game were sent out before the official release date.
A 23-year-old man who bought one of the first copies on sale in Britain was stabbed, hit with a brick and robbed of the game after leaving a supermarket in north London.
Those who began queuing last Friday outside the HMV store in London’s Oxford Street grabbed their copies to a soundtrack of high-decibel music.
In the Netherlands, there was a stampede at a shop in the southern city of Tilburg, where around 700 gamers had queued into the night.
“Everyone started pushing when the roll shutter opened, people fell over, were pushed to the ground, trampled,” video game journalist Bas van Dun told Dutch media.
“A man next to me… said afterwards he almost suffocated. He was shaking with anger. This wasn’t the party I was hoping for,” Van Dun said.
Police said no one was injured despite the panic.
In Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland copies were selling out faster than shops could stock them.