Grand Theft Auto 4 earned $500 million sales the first week it was released according to publisher Take Two. Six million copies of the gritty crime game have been sold for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Those numbers eclipsed the record-breaking sales of Halo 3 last year. Defeating this record is huge, but is not what fascinates me.
Leading up to the game’s release, Hollywood execs feared that the game’s following would decrease the box office revenue that weekend, including the release of Iron Man. That great film (almost as monumental as GTA4 in its own way) went on to earn $200 million worldwide that weekend. The fact that this proves Hollywood can’t blame games for poor reception of poor films makes me smile, but is not what engages my attention.
What gets my blood pumping and my brain-juices flowing is that the success of Grand Theft Auto 4, and not just the financial success, but the critical reception of the game-changing franchise, displays once more that games are not juvenilia. GTA4 is a mature game with artistic merit, interactive thrills, and a robust adoption by the mainstream public.
Halo 3 and other hits before it made the public and the business world take note, but GTA4 cements this concept. Games are for everyone. The good ones are fun and captivating; they can posses the craft of any great art and appeal to the creatives of this world. Games are a mature industry that can attract the business world’s attention (the focus on Nintendo and the Wii evidences that fact). And games should no longer be the scapegoat of politicians crying against violence (such games are labeled M, much like violent films are labeled R), nor the punching bag of elitists that hold up “kiddie games” as a sign of our society’s demise.
Grand Theft Auto 4, Boom Blox, Metal Gear Solid 4, and the like are here to stay. And such good games will continue to push an artistic medium into its rightful place in our culture. Revel in it. Or just deal with it.