Take-Two Taps PS3 to Rev Up ‘GTA IV’ in Europe

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe confirmed Wednesday it will release an official “Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA IV)” bundle exclusively for the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Available the same day the game launches, April 29, the “GTA IV” package will include the 40 GB model PS3, a Sixaxis wireless controller and, of course, a copy of the highly anticipated installment in the “Grand Theft Auto” series.

The bundle will retail for 439 euros (US$688).

Gamers in North America interested in the bundled console, controller and game will have to purchase the three items separately, according to Patrick Seybold, a spokesperson at Sony Computer Entertainment America.

“[The ‘GTA IV’] bundle is not coming to North America,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Bundle Bust for North America

North American fans of “GTA IV” bummed out that the bundle will remain a European offering can only blame the game’s popularity in the U.S. and the troubled economic picture, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group.

“‘GTA IV’ is largely a U.S. institution. Also, with the weakness in the U.S. dollar, they are probably trying to contain their costs and can’t raise prices for the PS3 product in any geography,” he explained.

As to why Sony’s European arm waited to announce the availability of the “GTA IV” bundle, Enderle said economic uncertainty in Europe probably played a role in the late announcement.

“The economic problems have everyone gaming what they will do when. Game buyers tend to buy on a whim outside the critical fourth-quarter buying period. This means they may defer a purchase waiting for the bundle and they are more likely to buy in large numbers if the promotion and the product hit close to the same time anyway,” he pointed out.

“They wanted to have the announcement and the products [come out] close to the same time,” he added.

Death Match: Xbox 360 vs. PS3

When “GTA IV” hits store shelves Tuesday, it will launch an epic battle between gaming console arch rivals Microsoft and Sony. The winner will come away with bragging rights and a larger installed base, while the loser will still make a ton of loot.

Working against Microsoft is the strong association gamers have between PlayStation consoles and “GTA.” Microsoft, however, has placed bets that the extra content it paid Take-Two Interactive to add to its version of “GTA IV” will give it an edge over the PS3 edition.

“For folks buying a new console for the game, the extra content may be the deal maker. Depends on how many know of this extra content and find it compelling, but everything being equal, it should help the Xbox more,” according to Enderle.

Pamela Tufegdzic, an analyst at iSuppli, agreed.

“In some ways, yes, [it will help Microsoft], as consumers that already own the Xbox 360 may not feel compelled to switch consoles,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

A report last week in Variety speculated that “GTA IV” had already sold some US$400 million worth of pre-orders. If those numbers prove to be correct, it would put the game well on its way to breaking sales records set last September by “Halo 3,” which brought in $300 million in seven days. Three weeks later, the blockbuster game sold some 3.3 million units in its first 30 days.

“It’s possible but doubtful,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times. “‘Halo’ is a relatively large franchise, and economic conditions and timing both favored ‘Halo’ on the last round.”

However, the strong attachment PlayStation 2 owners have to the game could put Sony on top.

“[‘GTA IV’] will most definitely drive sales up for the PS3 due to the heavy following and popularity of the game itself. Keep in mind most PS2 owners affiliate ‘GTA’ with Sony PlayStation, so we could see PS2 owners making the upgrade to the PS3 in higher numbers. The bundle will drive PS3 sales more so than selling the game individually, again due to the ‘GTA IV’ heavy following,” explained Tufegdzic.

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