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'GTA IV' could keep 'Iron Man' audience at home

  • Story Highlights
  • "GTA IV" released Tuesday, expected to gross $400 million in first week
  • "Iron Man" opens this weekend, expected to take in $50 to $60 million
  • Analysts say game release could hurt weekend ticket sales
  • Game reviewer calls "GTA IV" game "Perfection"
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By Mallory Simon
CNN
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(CNN) -- Who would win in a fight: a police-killing, rampage-driven thug or a superhero encased in a technologically superior suit of armor?

"Grand Theft Auto IV," released Tuesday, could give "Iron Man" a run for its money this weekend.

The answer could come this weekend when video game enthusiasts find out whether "Grand Theft Auto IV," expected to set sales records in the gaming world this week, will steal glory and revenue from a different entertainment empire: the movies.

As the hype for "GTA IV" continues to grow and reviews scream perfection, some speculate that the game will put a dent in Marvel Studios' opening weekend box office for "Iron Man."

"GTA IV" is the ninth incarnation of a video game in which the user acts as a criminal roaming a city. The series has faced criticism for being too violent, because users are allowed to beat, stab, shoot and kill citizens and police officers. "Iron Man" is a movie based on the Marvel comic book superhero who creates an impressive suit of armor to save his life and help save the world.

"GTA IV" was released Tuesday at midnight and is expected to gross about $400 million in the first week. Video See what makes this violent game so popular »

Edward Woo, a research analyst specializing in media and interactive entertainment at Wedbush Morgan Securities, said the game's release date and widespread reach could negatively affect opening box office numbers for "Iron Man."

"People on Friday or Saturday might find themselves at home playing this game instead of at the Cineplex," Woo said. " 'Iron Man' will still have a pretty good release, but intuitively, I think it's got be impacted when both share a similar audience and genre."

Because of the time element the game requires of its faithful -- between 30 and 40 hours to finish depending on skill level -- the question is whether gamers will put down their controllers for a couple of hours and go for a change of scenery.

Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said he isn't worried.

"It's crazy to think that young males can't carve out two hours for 'Iron Man,' " he told EW.com. "It's going to be a great week to be a young guy." Video Watch why violence in the game concerns some people »

This weekend won't be the first time analysts have speculated about video games damaging box office numbers. Last year, with $170 million in launch day sales and $300 million in its first week, "Halo 3" was blamed by some for the poor box office performance of "The Heartbreak Kid," starring Ben Stiller.

Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of "GTA IV" publisher Rockstar Games, predicted that with 6 million preorders worldwide, the game will bring in more than $400 million. "GTA IV" has a chance of surpassing the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" as the highest-grossing entertainment title in its first week of sales, and that's across all genres.

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello told the Financial Times this month that movie executives told him, " 'Iron Man' the movie is going to get killed by 'Grand Theft Auto,' the game.

"I don't think I've ever heard of that before," he said.

The video game market is growing at a rate of 20 to 30 percent this year, but the movie industry isn't seeing as much of an increase, Woo said. Overall, video game sales as a whole have eclipsed box office sales, he said, but the movie industry catches up when it comes to DVDs.

Ebullient reviews touted the game as "The Godfather" of video games because of its cult-like following.

Andrew Reiner, who reviewed "GTA IV" for Game Informer, a well-known destination for all things gaming, scored it as a 10.0/10.0 under the title of "Perfection."

"I now know how film critics felt after screening 'The Godfather,' " his review began.

"GTA IV" is a "landscape-changing event that doesn't come around very often," Reiner said.

It seems the feelings have translated to the regular consumer too. Gamers from Norway to Britain to America echoed similar sentiments on gaming message boards.

D.J. Brotherson from Winnipeg, Canada, said he enjoyed the game so much, he wanted to skip work and keep playing all night, saying it was unlike any game he had ever played.

"The story line is very well-written," he said, adding that the game "plays like an interactive Martin Scorsese movie."

"Today, I was as excited as I was when I was 5 years old and I just got my first Nintendo Entertainment System on Christmas Day." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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