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Microsoft paid $75 million to stop GTAIV PS3 exclusivity?

Wedbush's Michael Pachter says that the software giant spent lavishly to bring megahit to Xbox 360; Agent reportedly replacement for stillborn Rockstar zombie game.

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Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter is famous for making bold predictions--not all of which come to pass. However, in an interview with Eurogamer this week, the outspoken analyst shed some light on a major gaming event of the past.

"Microsoft paid Take-Two [Interactive] to make Grand Theft Auto IV non-exclusive," he told the publication. "GTA IV was going to be a PS3 exclusive, but Microsoft paid Rockstar and Take-Two to make it a non-exclusive, and they paid them a lot."

When Microsoft announced that Grand Theft Auto IV would launch simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at its 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo briefing, there were audible gasps in the audience. It was a major coup for the software giant, as the three previous iterations of Rockstar Games' wildly popular open-world crime series had debuted on the PlayStation 2. After several months, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did eventually make their way to the original Xbox and PC.

According to Pachter, Microsoft paid a massive premium to bring Grand Theft Auto, which has sold over 15 million units, to the 360 on day one. "The number I've heard, and I'm sure this is right, is $75 million, and that probably includes the funding for the first DLC packs too," said the analyst. "It's more than the $50 million that people talk about."

GTAIV protagonist Niko Bellic was a $75 million man, according to Pachter.
GTAIV protagonist Niko Bellic was a $75 million man, according to Pachter.

The downloadable content packs Pachter mentions are the two GTAIV expansions, the Lost & Damned and the Ballad of Gay Tony. During a June 2007 conference call with analysts, Take-Two executives revealed that Microsoft had paid them $25 million for each episode to make them 360-exclusive permanently. However, that presumption was dashed when Rockstar announced they were bound for the PC and PS3 in January. The pair launched just last week for the latter two platforms as a la carte DLC or as part of the Episodes from Liberty City compilation (see video review below), which does not require Grand Theft Auto IV to play.

Pachter also shared some second-hand information on Agent, the forthcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive from the GTAIV team at Rockstar North. He explained it thusly: "Sony…said to Take-Two, 'You've got to give us something else,' and the 'something else' was a zombie game that Rockstar wanted to work on. But while Rockstar was in the planning phase, Dead Rising came out and Left 4 Dead was announced. Rockstar realized they were up against a saturated market and said, 'What can we possibly do that will be any better than what Valve's done?' They started again, and that's when they came up with the idea of Agent, [but] nobody actually knows what it is."

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