Grand Theft Auto IV vs. games on the Mac

I re ad the other day, in a New York Times article, that Grand Theft Auto IV "racked up first-week sales of $500 million." This is a truly incredible statistic.

In contrast, take a look at the All-Time USA Box office numbers, as listed on IMDB. Titanic is number one at $600,779,824 and Star Wars in number 2 at $460,935,665. In other words, in one week, Grand Theft Auto IV surpassed the final U.S. gross ticket sales for every movie every made, except Titanic!

Now that's impressive.

What's almost as impressive, at least to me, is that I don't know one person who actually owns the game. Now granted, I am not a youngster any more. And I don't have much social interaction with people under 30. At least not of the sort where the subject of Grand Theft Auto is likely to crop up in the conversation.

Still, I would have thought that I would at least heard about a few people who had played the game. Nope. Or whose kids play the game. Not one. I confess that I too have never played the game. I don't even own a game console (Wii, Xbox or PlayStation).

From this anecdotal "survey", I am led to assume that the galactic sales of GTA IV derives almost entirely from teens and twenty-somethings. Actually, given that the game has an M rating, teenagers under 17 aren't even supposed to be buying the game. Although I know the rating system is largely a farce, GTA IV's rating presumably limit sales at least a wee bit. And still the game steamrolls across the landscape. Very very impressive indeed.

For the record, it's not that I have no interest in games. Quite the contrary. It's just that I haven't had sufficient motivation to buy a game console. I have enjoyed playing games on my Mac over the years, including Halo and various Star Wars games. I have always preferred this to the alternative of investing $300 or more in a game console and having to hook it up to my TV -- and then paying $60 or so for each new game. Only to have it all become obsolete a year or so later when the inevitable next generation console hardware is released.

But what do I know? Clearly, I am something of a dinosaur here.

I do know that games for the Mac aren't getting much buzz these days — even among Mac owners. There was a time when the prospect of something such as the release of Halo for the Mac was a big deal. [Of course, for Halo, Bungie was purchased by Microsoft, which put development plans for a Mac version on hold for several years. But that's another story.] There was a time when the arrival of the latest Mac games made front-page headlines in the Mac press, not just a brief mention in a Games column somewhere. That time is gone. And the most popular games, such as Grand Theft Auto, never appear on a Mac. Often, they don't appear on a PC either, at least not until long after the game has been available for consoles.

I do see a glimmer of good news here -- at least for those of us with an iPhone. There's a reasonable chance that, after the release of iPhone 2.0 software in July, games on the iPhone will become the next big thing -- even surpassing devices such as Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP). With its use of a touchscreen and accelerometer, the iPhone offers a unique game environment, one that just might give it a critical competitive edge. At least I hope so. I would welcome being on the leading edge of games again, without having to buy a game console or stick an extra device in my pocket.