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Grand Theft Auto V is around the corner…or at least the trailer is

Shares of Take-Two Interactive surged 6 percent on Tuesday. But it had nothing to do with activist investor Carl Icahn, who owns a chunk of the company or any rumors about the company's earnings on Nov. 8.

What happened is that investors looked at the website of Rockstar games, the Take-Two-owned studio behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Its website had been replaced by a large Grand Theft Auto logo and a Roman numeral V wrapped around a banner saying "five."

Gamers have been salivating for GTA 5 since 2008, when the last game in the series came out, so much so that at least one analyst has said that the game could sell 25 million copies in its first year.

But the timing, price, features or any other details are not yet known. The only clue the company revealed is on its website: the trailer is coming out on Nov 2.

Dan Houser, one of its renown game developers, gave an extended interview to Gamespot last week to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the third version  but was mum on new details about the newest game.

E3: Strauss Zelnick dishes on Wii U, Zynga and why foie gras tastes better than chewing gum

Take-Two Interactive occupies a massive booth at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where it’s showing off its new games and serving beer at the elaborate sports bar it constructed on the show floor.  Under its CEO, Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two has been showing renewed financial health in recent quarters. In February, it posted its first profitable year in nearly a decade without a new release of its blockbuster video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.”  Zelnick sat down with Reuters for an in depth chat touching on everything from Nintendo’s new console to Zynga’s business model, and the difference between foie gras and chewing gum.

Reuters: Are publishers on board more than ever before with Nintendo on the Wii U?

Zelnick: Well, It’s hard to know, right? At E3, there’s always a great deal of enthusiasm, as there should be. It remains to be seen what the releases schedules look like. We do think it’s pretty interesting. What they are doing with one display in your hands and the other display that’s wireless in front of you and the ability to have them work independently as well as together, creates a lot of interesting creative opportunities and that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll see how our creative teams feel but right now it looks pretty interesting.

GlobalMedia-Ghosts of Atari haunt gaming sector dealmakers

MEDIA-SUMMIT/The video game sector is often seen as being particularly ripe for consolidation, with some expecting old line media giants such as Time Warner to swoop in and scoop up a publisher to diversify their entertainment rosters.

But Strauss Zelnick, chairman of “Grand Theft Auto” publisher Take-Two Interactive, remains surprised by the lack of action on the consolidation front. “I think the legacy media companies have not been especially aggressive about interactive entertainment,” he said at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York on Wednesday. His company, of course, fought off Electronic Arts’ hostile takeover bid in 2008.

“I have to admit there are times when I’m surprised they’re not more exposed.”

from Summit Notebook:

Mattresses and pillows, a diversified portfolio

With financial markets in turmoil and the U.S. economy in recession, we asked top entertainment and sports executives at the Reuters Media Summit for some investment advice.

Our question: "If we gave you $50,000, where would you invest?" One rule: They couldn't pick their own company. But then we thought $50,000 was too little for well heeled executives, so we switched it to $50 million. But that seemed excessive. After all, we're talking about personal investments -- so we settled on giving them a cool $1 million.

Here's what they said:

"In a pillow ... You might look at the energy sector, you might see what happens with gold. I've got cousins who work in the banking industry. When I asked them, they told me put it in my pillow. That is your answer."
-- Havas's MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano

from Summit Notebook:

Zelnick: Welcome to the emergency room

Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take Two Interactive, has a bone to pick with the media: He doesn't like the two words "Financial" and "Crisis." At least not when they are used to describe the current state of economic affairs.

"I don't think we're in a financial crisis," Zelnick said at the Reuters Media Summit. "The use of the word crisis -- I'm loathe to be critical of the media since I'm every bit a part of the media -- but I don't think the word has been especially helpful. We're obviously in a recession and these are very very trying times."

If not a financial crisis, then what? Well, Zelnick offers up a hospital metaphor. 

Take-Two takers?

Take-Two Interactive CEO Ben Feder told us yesterday the company is in formal discussions with a range of parties interested in its “strategic alternatives,” which could involve a sale.

But they didn’t say with whom.

The “Grand Theft Auto” game maker has been fending off the unsolicited advances of Electronic Arts‘ $2 billion offer since March. At the time, Take-Two management deemed the $25.74 per share offer too low, charging EA with low-balling the company ahead of the release of the latest from its hit criminal action franchise. Take-Two traded at $27.52 on Friday morning.

So, who else might be a potential white knight? Time Warner, which has made no secret of its ambitions in the games arena, would be a nice fit, although we’re hearing they’re not in this one. Just this week the company led a $40 million round of financing for online games developer Turbine Entertainment, on the heels of a $30 million investment in April in “Lara Croft” maker SCi Entertainment Group.

Grand Theft Auto IV is cruising

grand-theft-auto.jpgThat was fast. Already, in its first week, Grand Theft Auto IV sold more than 6 million copies globally, rocketing past expectations that were hardly modest to begin with.

So what is it with this game? Well, for one thing, it has been praised by gamers and critics alike who hail it as satirical and multi-layered, the equal of films like “The Godfather” or TV shows like “The Sopranos.”

Made by Take-Two Interactive Software”s Rockstar studio, the game also has its share of detractors, who say it’s too violent and sends the wrong message to kids and young adults. Given the big sales the first week, the criticism doesn’t appear to have hurt its popularity.

Grand Theft Auto 4, delivered

grandtheftauto4.jpgThere were indeed fans lined up along the streets of New York City awaiting the launch of  Grand Theft Auto IV on Tuesday morning. According to the experts, they will not be disappointed.

Even the New York Times lavished praise of a sort on the video game from Take-Two Interactive’s Rockstar studio: “‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun.”

Though the vast majority of gamer blogs were even more emphatic in their love of the game, there were bound to be many naysayers if only because “GTA” deals with such edgy content, in this case an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes. The Parents Television Council thinks retailers shouldn’t carry the game according to Variety magazine.