Grand Theft Auto 4 – The Aftermath

The AusGamers Grand Theft Auto 4 review – on our new whiz-bang website – is now up. Steve has given it a thorough playing before deigning to write a single word, I think with excellent results. If you want to really know how the game plays before you drop your hard earned cash, then you should definitely check it out.

It was interesting to see how all the major players in the review space had their reviews up. A brand like GTA is going to sell no matter what they put in the box and put on the shelves, so I can’t help but feel that it almost doesn’t matter what people write about it – everyone is going to buy it regardless. But at the same time, it’d be nice to think that critical reviews of entertainment software are going to be done by someone that has at least spent several days playing the game – especially when it is a title crammed with such variety as your average GTA instance.

The echoes of the release of GTA4 will continue to rebound around the universe for months, if not years. A title that cost around US$100 million to make and raked in around US$500 million in sales in the first few nanoseconds after release – well, at title like that is something that will affect the industry in significant ways.

EA has definitely caught a taste of blood in the water, and are circling Take Two to try and get a few bites of that tasty Grand Theft Auto meat that appears to be ever-so-slightly out of their reach.

Another effect is a little more personal, but I suspect it’s actually fairly common. GTA4 is, for me, the killer app that is going to drag me kicking and screaming into the “next generation” console world. The reluctance on my part is really just because I know what is “next generation” in consoles is really “several generations old” in terms of PC hardware – while I enjoy running down pedestrians from the comfort of my couch, I can’t deny I’d rather be paying GTA4 on the PC.

But it looks like that dream is a while off, so I’ve reconciled myself with my fate – I need to buy an Xbox 360 (I have ruled out a PlayStation 3 as part of a general anti-Sony bias that shows no sign of abating).

Now, I don’t want to go to all the trouble of buying a next generation console and the hottest game of the year only to play it in a blurry mess on my old CRT TV – so that means I need to get a new TV. As far as console accessories go, this is a big one – instantly my ~$600 next generation upgrade becomes a massive investment, not just into my game playing but into my TV watching. I need to factor in how big a deal 1080p is, whether or not I want a BluRay player, should I get surround sound…

I tried to solve all these problems in a single sweep last weekend, making the painful decision about what TV I wanted, committing myself to spending a large sum of money all so I could play one particular game. By the time I’d committed to the decision I felt like a large weight had been lifted off my chest – I was finally moving forward into the next generation, so my peers would no longer look pityingly upon me when I said I only had a 80cm CRT TV that wasn’t even widescreen on which I played GTA: San Andreas on a PlayStation 2.

Sadly, about 10 minutes after I’d decided to jump in feet first, it turned out that the plasma TV I had decided on was not available in the store – or any other stores from around town. Instantly, my whole plan became unravelled – I’d spent ages researching this particular TV and had my heart set on it as I knew it was a pretty decent one. Should I risk gambling on another just to solve the problem? Or go back to the research drawing board?

The adrenaline rush and mental effort of committing to this purchase had drained me of all ability to think further on the issue, so I walked out of the store a broken man – no doubt much to the disappointment of the salesman I was dealing with, who was looking forward to a nice combo sale to wrap up his day.

So I’m back at square one – no GTA4, no nice new plasma, no Xbox 360. I’ll probably go out again this weekend after doing some more research on TVs, but reflecting on the whole process and then extrapolating it out to the Rest of the World makes me curious – how many other people are going through similar pains because of the lure of just one game? Are we a small group of just crazy people with a bit too much disposable income? Or is this game such a big deal that it has the potential to not only drive people into the next generation console world, but also move people into the next generation television world, prompting a more significant uptake of big screen, high definition televisions than ever before seen?

Either way, the impact GTA4 has had already in terms of its own sales – regardless of anything else it’s done to or for anyone else – is simply mind-boggling. The effect it has had on gamers is no less astounding – every website is awash with stories of how great the game is, how much it’s selling, how many people are going to go crazy and kill people because of it, how it’s not going to incite riots, etc, etc.

And I have only played it for a few minutes. When will I get my turn?!

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