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It was the one thing all Grand Theft Auto fans hoped wouldn’t happen, but were resigned to the fact it would.
Illegal copies of the new GTA IV game appear to be available for download from bit torrent file-sharing sites, six days before the game is officially released.
According to the games website Kotaku, the first ripped files were found online at lunchtime today. The files in question are supposedly an illegal copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game, and have been seeded across various torrent sites by a group calling themselves iCON.
At the moment, the rip is only compatible with the PAL television format, which means people in Europe, Australia, Japan and parts of Asia can download and play the file. Game fans in the US and other countries that use the NTSC format are expected to be able to download a ripped version for their region from the internet within the next 48 hours.
Grand Theft Auto IV, which gets its official global release on April 29, is expected to sell around six million copies in its first week on sell, earning the game’s publisher, Rockstar Games, about £200 million.
Rockstar’s parent company, Take Two, announced on Monday that the game was being shipped to retailers, sparking concerns that the game could be mistakenly sold in shops ahead of launch.
Several clips have already been uploaded to YouTube purportedly showing the introductory sequence to the game, as well as some in-game footage, but all the videos have been removed following copyright claims by Take Two.
Meanwhile Sony has sought to boost its console sales on the back of GTA IV. It’s offering a bundle pack, featuring a copy of the game, a 40GB PlayStation 3 console and a single controller for around £350.
Microsoft is expected to offer its own bundle pack for the Xbox 360, but no pricing details have been announced yet.