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UAE retailers await GTA IV sales decision

Game not banned in UAE, decision pending with National Media Council

The UAE distributor for Rockstar Games, the developer of Grand Theft Auto IV, is in discussions with the National Media Council (NMC) concerning whether the game can be released in this market.

Previously part of the Ministry of Information, the NMC includes a censorship department that is responsible for allowing or blocking the UAE distribution of video games and other media in the Emirates.

At present, the game has not been banned in the UAE, although previous editions of the game were banned in several countries, including the UAE, because of violence and sexual content.

Copies of the long-awaited game, sequel to the controversial GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas, are already available through some online marketplaces, and at duty free outlets across the region, although the game has not been released to general retailers.

A spokesperson for Rockstar's local distributor Red Entertainment Distribution confirmed to Windows Middle East today: "As part of standard practice, we are in discussions with the UAE Ministry of Information regarding the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. This is a standard practice that is followed for all the games that we distribute in the local UAE market, which are passed by them for their approval prior to release in the UAE."

In the meantime, UAE game retailers and media appear confused over whether GTA IV - which was released worldwide to critical acclaim yesterday - will indeed appear in UAE stores, with some retail sources predicting that the game won't be allowed for sale, and others suggesting it will likely appear as grey import in smaller outlets.

Industry analysts predict that the game will sell over six million copies in its first week of sales, netting $400 million, far outstripping the sums made by major Hollywood film launches. Take Two, publisher of the game, stands to add $1 billion to its annual profit from this one game.

Other industry analysts were even more bullish about prospects for the game, with Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter telling Reuters: "So how many will sell in the first week or month or few months? Nine million. That's the number. That's about a 35% attach rate. By year's end, it'll be somewhere between 11 and 13 million because more consoles will be sold before the holidays."

Despite an official verdict on the game's UAE suitability having not yet been made, PS3 versions of Grand Theft Auto IV have already begun appearing on the UAE pages of auction website Souq.com. The title is also available at duty free outlets across the region.