At this point it may be easier to count the people who don't own a copy of Grand Theft Auto V than the people who do. The game took in $800 million worldwide on Tuesday, its first day of sales, and it hasn't even hit several big international markets, including Japan.
The game, which cost $125 million to develop and $150 million to market, is expected to reach $1 billion in sales within a few days.
That means it will likely reach the $1 billion mark faster than any game or movie in history. (As a comparison, last year's big interactive hit, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, took in about $500 million on its opening day, and reached the $1 billion threshold in just over two week—faster, as the L.A. Times notes, than box office super-hit Avatar.
I started playing the game Tuesday evening, and one of the things that already stands out to me is how many political references there are. As in previous games, there are fake radio stations with fake, often bitingly funny, commercials that you can listen to during the game's driving sequences. After about seven hours of play, I've already heard commercials that reference mandatory gun ownership, financial regulation, lobbying expenditures, and union power. That said, I'm not sure there's a political agenda to be found in the game so much as a gleeful universal cynicism about just about everything.
I wrote a brief piece on the history of video games in Reason's August/September issue.
Update: The New York Times offers this bit on the game's politics in a piece that interviews Rockstar Games founder Sam Houser:
Sexual politics aside, Grand Theft Auto V is in many ways quite liberal. Mr. Houser regards it as evenhanded in its cynicism, but while the game sends up the consumption habits of the liberal professional class (a natural-foods store's motto is "Open up your mouth and look down on people"), the substantive policy targets lean conservative.
One of the more intriguing bits in the game, given Mr. Houser's personal history growing up in London, involves a pair of deluded anti-immigrant activists who set up a civil border patrol and stun-gun American mariachi performers. "I've been here 15 years and have an American passport but still feel like an immigrant, am an immigrant, always will be one," Mr. Houser said.
Another of the political provocations is a gruesome and unpleasant torture sequence — conducted by the player — that casts waterboarding and other violent methods as games played for the entertainment of the interrogator.