‘San Andreas’ Will Steer Holiday Game Sales

The holiday gaming season officially opened yesterday with the release of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”

The third in the immensely popular line of video games — all of which have been both praised for innovative play environments and vilified for violence and their portrayal of minorities and women — is expected by analysts to sell at least 4.5 million copies, sales figures that would put it in line with a blockbuster movie.

Thumbs Up

Judging from the high ratings popular gaming Web sites are giving the game, the analysts are right. GameSpot.com gave “GTA: San Andreas,” which is rated M for mature, a 9.6 out of 10 and said: “In short, Rockstar [the publisher] has done it again. ‘San Andreas’ definitely lives up to the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ name. In fact, it’s arguably the best game in the series.”

IGN.com gave the game a 9.9, while its readers ranked it 9.6. OPM, the online version of Playstation Magazine, gave the game five stars out of five.

Hot Holiday Sequels

Jupiter Research lead analyst Jay Horwitz said he expects this holiday season to be a good one for game sales.

“With several blockbusters, this holiday season should be strong. Although there is an expectation that new console platforms will be released next season, there have been no formal launch announcements,” Horwitz told TechNewsWorld. “People want to play good games now. Few consumers will postpone spending until the release of next generation systems.”

Next out, on November 9, is Microsoft’s “Halo 2” for the Xbox console, another M-rated sequel. The game has racked up 1.5 million pre-orders to date.

“Metroid Prime 2 Echoes,” rated T for teen, hits stores on November 15. It’s for Nintendo’s GameCube.

The day after that, both “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater” for Sony’s PlayStation 2 and the PC game “Half-Life 2,” both rated M, will be released.

Games for Kids

While all these games are geared toward older game-players, Horwitz said there are games out there for all tastes.

“There are many strong franchises targeted at children, such as ‘Sly 2,’ ‘Blinx 2’ and another Kirby title. With a medium that continues moving towards the mass market, video game content is highly diverse — most every taste and demographic can find games that appeal to them,” he said.

“Sly 2” was released in September for PS2; “Blinx2” will be released November 16 for the Xbox; and Kirby and the Amazing Mirror was released last week for the Game Boy Advance.

Michael Cai, senior analyst at Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld that consumers make 70 percent of their game sales during the holiday season. He said he expects games sales to remain steady, but console sales will remain flat because next-generation consoles are expected out in a year or so.

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