Grand Theft Auto 5: Devotees are game for a midnight flit to bag copy of 'biggest release of the year'
Hundreds of gamers descended on Northern Ireland retailers at midnight to snap up a copy of the hotly anticipated video game Grand Theft Auto 5.
The doors at HMV in Belfast city centre opened at 10pm last night to give gamers a chance to play the 18-rated violent crime game in the store's game pod before copies were sold from midnight.
One report suggested the development costs for GTA 5 could be in the region of £170m, making it the most expensive video game ever made. Estimated sales could top £1bn.
The first Grand Theft Auto game was released back in 1997 and it has been five years since the last game in the series was released.
The series has been subject to a great deal of controversy because of its violent nature and depiction of criminality, prostitution and substance abuse.
Last night, a spokesman for HMV Belfast told the Belfast Telegraph demand for GTA 5 was high.
"It's the biggest release of the year so far," he said.
"The games define a generation of gamers.
"It gives people the scope to do their own thing within the game, there are so many subplots."
Some fans got their hands on a copy of the eagerly awaited game early as Amazon.co.uk delivered copies ahead of the official launch today, breaching a strict embargo set by the games maker, Rockstar North, the title's Scottish creator. The game's opening theme music was also leaked.
The soundtrack includes tracks from Elton John, Queen, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Pulp, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder, Black Flag, Pet Shop Boys, NWA and Muse.
While gamers were pleased to get an early look at the game Rockstar North is said to be not so impressed.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Xtravision in Banbridge told the Belfast Telegraph the release of the latest instalment in the Grand Theft Auto series would be kickstarting their Christmas countdown, and branded the games as "massively popular".
"It's the first release in four or five years, it's the biggest release of the year. For us it's the start of the Christmas run-up."
At Smyths in Newry around 250 people had pre-ordered the game.
"It's finally here," a spokesman said.
"The new Call Of Duty is out in November and it will sell well, but I'd say GTA 5 will be the biggest release of the year."