Microsoft and Sony will go head to head over the release of Grand Theft Auto IV tomorrow (April 29). It is billed as the biggest game launch of the year to date.
Industry experts describe the game as a “system seller” – a title that prompts gamers to buy new hardware – and predict that demand for the consoles will be bigger than it was at Christmas.
Microsoft has ploughed millions into the battle with Sony. It has bought exclusive content for its version of the game from developer Rockstar in a deal reported to be worth $50m (£25m), it has dropped the price of its consoles in the run up to the launch and is running an extensive ad campaign featuring the game and its consoles.
Sony has responded with a national press campaign – but has not been able to match Microsoft’s budgets. However, the GTA franchise has a historical association with Sony and the company hopes this will boost sales.
Gaming experts believe that the launch will help Microsoft edge out Sony. Bruce Everiss, former Codemasters marketing director and gaming consultant, says Microsoft’s financial muscle will win the day.
He adds: “Microsoft seem to have an edge which could give them the victory that decides this generation of the console wars.”
But Sony says it is not relying as heavily on the GTA series to sell its consoles as Microsoft is as it has more games available. It also claims that pre-order figures show the PS3 version of the game is outselling its Xbox rival.
“We are not putting all our eggs in one basket,” says a Sony spokesman. “We have a 10-year plan for the PS3 and we are entering a golden era.”