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It’s official: Grand Theft Auto V is on the way

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Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Get ready to play in Rockstar's sandbox once again.

The developer has formally announced that Grand Theft Auto V is coming, though in true Rockstar fashion, that's about all it has to say so far.

The developer has wallpapered its website with the game's logo and promised to release the first trailer for the game on Nov. 2. Normally, that wouldn't be enough to put gamers into a tizzy — but GTA is hardly a normal game.It's the crown jewel in Take-Two and Rockstar's crown, a game that's both adored and vilified by the mass market. Players love the franchise's sprawling, open-world cities and anything-goes gameplay, but many have demonized the game due to its unflinching violence. (The announcement, in fact, comes on the third anniversary of the disbarment of one of the game's more vocal critics.)

GTA is also a cash machine. Life to date, the six games in the series have sold over 114 million units — and GTA V is widely expected to be the most popular game in the series to date. Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia estimates the game could see sales of up to 25 million copies during its first year.

To put that in perspective: 25 million units would put year-one gross sales at roughly $1.5 billion. The worldwide gross of the film Titanic came in at $1.84 billion, according to BoxOfficeMojo.

Grand Theft Auto IV shattered entertainment industry sales records in 2008, with first week sales of $500 million. Call of Duty has since claimed that crown — and will likely do so again this year — but GTA could steal it back.

While the tease of the game gave no date (and there's no guarantee the trailer will either), most analysts believe GTA V will be a late 2012 release, though most allow for the possibility that it could slip until early 2013. Rockstar developers tend to be perfectionists, which make release schedules especially dubious.

Still, shares in Rockstar's parent company, Take 2 Interactive, were up about 7 percent in mid-day trading based solely on the announcement.

It wasn't that huge of a surprise. Clues about a GTA announcement have been building throughout the year.

In late February, Take-Two registered several domain names: 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 game likes to tweak pop-culture touchstones.

Then in March, 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 prision." (The Pedeaston character was actually mentioned in GTA IV.)

Next up for the GTA series is an iOS/Android take on its seminal hit Grand Theft Auto III, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It's is due out later this fall.

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