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Grand Theft Auto 5 makes more than $800 million on first day of release

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Grand Theft Auto 5 has smashed its way into the record books by grabbing the largest ever first day takings for a video game, underlining the appeal of the medium as Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch a new generation of consoles.

The latest instalment of the British-produced franchise took more than $800m (£498m) worldwide on Tuesday. Billed as one of the most ambitious and expensive games ever created, the California-based crime epic has already more than recouped its $270m development and marketing budget.

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Sales have left in the dust the previous $500m record set in 2012 by Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and beaten in a single day the $500m in revenue which Grand Theft Auto’s fourth instalment generated in its first week nearly five years ago.

“The last major Grand Theft Auto title sold just under 13 million [units] in the course of the year. This did that in a day,” said Daniel Ernst, an analyst at Hudson Square Research.

The success of a game which features mafia bosses, motorcycle gangs, man-eating sharks and cynical movie producers running riot in a fictional town loosely based on Los Angeles, has underlined once again the console’s ability to host entertainment franchises more valuable than those produced in Hollywood.

The biggest ever opening weekend for a feature film was achieved by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011, when it took $480m worldwide at the box office – a fraction of Grand Theft Auto’s single day achievement.

Described by the Guardian’s games critic as “a monstrous parody of modern life”, the title that unleashes the player’s inner thug with missions to steal cars and rob banks has defied predictions that lavish video game productions will soon be sidelined by a multitude of cheaper and more disposable smartphone apps.

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News that consumers are still prepared to part with £38 for a single title will cheer Sony, which releases Playstation 4 in the United States on 15 November, and its rival Microsoft, whose Xbox One goes on sale a week later.

“No one title is an indicator of success of upcoming platforms,” said David Riley, executive director at market researcher NPD Group. “You can’t say because of GTA the industry would be saved. But it is a boost in the arm of the industry that it has needed for quite a while. We are going to have a great holiday season worldwide.”

In August, NPD found US sales of hardware, accessories and software grew year on year for the first time since October 2011, albeit by a modest 1%. But the boost was entirely due to new titles, with sales of consoles down 40%.

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Take-Two chairman and chief executive Strauss Zelnick praised the Edinburgh-based team at Rockstar North which produces the GTA franchise for “setting the entertainment industry’s new standard for creativity, innovation and excellence”. He said in north America alone, 8,300 shops had opened their doors at midnight to make the most of the release.

Sony said Thursday it expected sales of its new PlayStation 4 console to reach 5 million units this financial year, about 40% more than its third console generated in the same period seven years ago. But smartphones already far outsell consoles, and less complex games like Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Dots are booming.

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“A lot of kids don’t want $40 games any more, they want 40 $1 games,” Nancy MacIntyre told Bloomberg. A former executive at game studio LucasArts, she now runs a social-gaming network Fingerprint Digital.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013


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Melania Trump statue torched near her Slovenian hometown: report

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On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that a wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump carved from a tree outside her hometown in Slovenia last year has been burned to the ground.

"The artist who had commissioned the sculpture, Brad Downey, had the statue removed on July 5," reported Madeline Charbonneau. "Downey, who is American but works out of Berlin, had hoped his statue of the first lady would create dialogue about American politics, given that Melania Trump is an immigrant married to a president who seeks to stem immigration. Though the investigation is still pending, Downey said he hopes to interview the perpetrators for an upcoming exhibition."

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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