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Clues point to imminent Grand Theft Auto 5 announcement

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Niko is waiting, too - Grand Theft Auto IV

Everyone knows a new Grand Theft Auto is coming. It is, after all, one of the biggest franchises in the video game industry. But to date, Rockstar Games hasn't dropped many hints about what to expect.

Over the past few weeks, though, there have been some cracks in the armor, indicating that work is well underway on the next installment in the iconic series.

It started in late February, with the registration of several domain names by Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive Software: LifeInvader.com, CashforDeadDreams.com, SixFigureTemps.com, StopPayingYourMortgage.com and HammersteinFaust.com.

Though it was hardly conclusive, each had a GTA ring to them, as the franchise likes to tweak pop culture touchstones. And publishers are extra careful these days to secure any URL that might be mentioned or could be tied to a game -- particularly after an embarrassing oversight on Ubisoft's part in 2004 led to a Tom Clancy game inadvertently promoting a porn-filled website.

This week, another series of clues emerged, as a casting call for voice actors listed a number of roles that seemed to fit into the GTA universe, such as "Jose," a 30-40 year old "white creepy man who thinks that technology is a poison against the wilderness" and "James Pedeaston," a 40-45 year old "man-boy love activist who just got released from an Indonesian prison." (The Pedeaston character was actually a part in GTA IV.)

Also among the character descriptions were a young actress who is obsessed with "sex parties" and a teen fighting for the right of young boys to drink alcohol. The production company for these roles was originally listed as "Take 2," says Eurogamer, but has since been changed to "private."

It's not just website registrations and casting calls fueling the speculation, though. Analysts note that the contracts of several key Rockstar employees expire in fiscal 2012, so the company is more than likely ensuring that those developers are working hard on the game now, in case they decide not to stay with Rockstar when renewal time comes.

"The completion of L.A. Noire coupled with the delay of Max Payne 3 makes us confident that key Rockstar employees are again engaged in the development of the next installment of Grand Theft Auto," said Wedbush Securities Michael Pachter.

Most analysts estimate the game will ship to stores either this holiday season or in the first three months of 2012 -- and with the annual E3 game convention coming up in early June, an official announcement could be coming soon.

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