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August 2, 2007 at 2:13 PM

Grand Theft Auto IV delayed until 2008

This could put a damper on the holiday video game season: “Grand Theft Auto IV,” one of the most-anticipated games of the year, will not be released until sometime in early 2008, according to publisher Take Two Interactive Software.

The game’s release is being moved from the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, which ends Oct. 31, to the second quarter of its 2008 fiscal year, which ends April 30, 2008, “due to additional development time required to complete the title,” according to a statement on the Take Two’s investor relations Web site.

The game was to be released for Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 simultaneously.

That apparently complicated development.

“Certain elements of development proved to be more time-intensive than expected, especially given the commitment for a simultaneous release on two very different platforms,” Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick said in a statement.

“GTA IV,” the next installment of the controversial and wildly popular game that features car jacking and hooker-shooting, was going to be one of a triumvirate of titles to drive Microsoft’s Xbox 360 during the all-important holiday season, the other two being “Madden NFL ’08” and Microsoft’s exclusive “Halo 3” title.

Update: It appears the schedule for the Xbox 360-exclusive “GTA IV” episodic content remains unchanged by this. According to the statement, the episodic content, which will be available via download from Xbox Live, is still in the 2008 line up, where it always has been.

Could this delay help Microsoft when “GTA IV” is ultimately released? The first installment of the episodic content was due in March 2008, according to comments from Take-Two CFO Lainie Goldstein during the company’s June 11, 2007 conference call. Goldstein also acknowledged that Take-Two will be paid in two $25 million chunks for the two exclusive installments of episodic content — for a total, eye-popping price tag of $50 million (a figure that has not been confirmed by Microsoft).

If the first episode of Xbox 360-exclusive content is released in March 2008 — it’s hard to imagine it coming before the game itself — that would put it within weeks of the release of the game itself.

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