April 29, Grand Theft Auto IV will be released worldwide. This figures to the biggest video game release of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t shatter just about every sales record now that it will be available on both Xbox 360 and PS3. The franchise has a massive built-in following that has been earned over the course of the series thanks to a genre-defying game, great marketing and the occasional controversy.
Hard-core gamers are going to be all over this one, and even some casual gamers, especially Xbox 360 owners, will probably check it out as well. But how can Rockstar Games, publisher of the title, bring in a new group of players?
With the announcement that fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was involved with GTA IV, I think they are headed in the right direction, just the publicity alone puts the game in front of a new demographic. But ultimately I’m not sure if the overlap between fashionistas and gamers is strong enough.
On I don’t think trying to get hard-core sports gamers is the answer either. Just because you love playing Madden and play it for seven straight hours doesn’t mean you want to get involved with the GTA universe. Equally, I don’t think I would go after the World of Warcraft crowd either. They’ve already made their decision on which Massive, Intense Narrative Universe (MINU) they’re going to join.
I would however look to other entertainment genres and media franchises to see if I could pull in a crowd that doesn’t already have a video game allegiance, but has a track record of being interested in a MINU.
Fans of The Wire seem like a perfect well to drill. Deeply devoted fans of a series with morally ambiguous characters in a world that deals with cops, dealers, hustlers and the internal and external stuggles of life in the big city? The Wire and GTA seem made for each other. Perhaps get David Simon to write some of the episodic GTA content for the Xbox 360. How about even seeing some of the characters, like Bubbles, McNulty, The Greek or someone from his crew drop by Liberty City.
The key is not thinking outside the box, just finding another box about the same size and shape and dumping its content into yours.