Car Thieves Sink the Titanic

Rockstar Games

The video game Grand Theft Auto is on target to become the most profitable entertainment franchise of all time.

The fifth episode of the urban-bandit adventure series, in which players steal a car and escape before the police arrive, made a staggering $800 million on its first day. By day three it had grossed $1 billion. Latest figures from games industry site suggest that this incarnation, set in Los Angeles, has now sold 17,520,000, grossing $1.54 billion.

Take-Two, the New York company that owns the franchise, reported that by November of last year 125 million copies of Grand Theft Auto had been sold in its first four outings, which are set in London, New York, Miami, and San Francisco. At an average of $35 per copy, the series has so far earned a total $5.45 billion.

That surpasses the combined worldwide take of the two highest-grossing movies of all time, Avatar and Titanic, as well as the entire Lord of the Rings film cycle. The Harry Potter franchise has grossed about $7.7 billion, but as J.K. Rowling has stopped writing Potter books and they've all been made into movies, Grand Theft Auto will soon overtake it.

Avatar made $2.8 billion worldwide, Titanic $2.2 billion, and The Avengers, the third most profitable movie ever, pulled in $1.5 billion. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone took $975 million worldwide; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926 million. The Lord of the Rings cycle has grossed $2.9 billion in total.

Grand Theft Auto was created in 1995 by four young men from Dundee, Scotland – Mike Dailly, Steve Hammond, David Jones and Russell Kay – and first went on sale two years later. It is now owned by Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take Two.

The game is not likely to be stopped by the cops anytime soon. It is currently available only on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but before long it will be released on Microsoft Windows. The biggest sales boost, however, will come when it is launched on next-generation games consoles, including the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Both will be released in November, just in time for the holidays.