The Week in Games: Sept. 8, 2008

Real news from the virtual world:

— BIG WHEELS: How huge is "Grand Theft Auto IV"? Take-Two Interactive announced that it has sold 10 million copies of the game since its April 29 launch.

To put that in perspective, 2007's best-selling video game, "Halo 3," sold just 4.8 million. And "GTA IV" still has the holiday season as well as a PC version to look forward to.

The game's revenue of $600 million also puts it ahead of the year's most popular movie, "The Dark Knight," whose box office is at $512 million and rising.

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During the same conference call in which he talked about "GTA IV" sales, Take-Two CEO Ben Feder also mentioned that "Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" will be out in the first quarter of the company's 2009 fiscal year, which puts it sometime before Jan. 31 of next year.

The first Nintendo DS chapter of the "GTA" franchise is being developed by Rockstar Leeds, which handled the same duties on the PlayStation Portable games "Liberty City Stories" and "Vice City Stories."

Meanwhile, hardcore "GTA IV" players who have shot every pigeon and performed every last stunt in Liberty City are eagerly awaiting the further adventures of antihero Niko Bellic.

Rumors about the availability of fresh, downloadable missions were stoked last month when Microsoft issued a press release saying, "In autumn there will be news from Liberty City; the first episodes of 'GTA IV' will be available for download exclusively on Xbox Live."

The respected Eurogamer Web site, citing "sources close to Rockstar North," the developer of "GTA IV," reported that the target is late November.

— PLAYMAKERS: I watch as much ESPN as any red-blooded American male, but it takes something pretty special to force me to endure the network's "Sunday NFL Countdown."

Something like the new gimmick introduced over the weekend: the "EA Sports Virtual Playbook," which allowed analyst Tom Jackson to interact with life-size, animated players straight out of "Madden NFL."

Unfortunately, the matchup ESPN highlighted on one of the week's least interesting: Houston defensive end Mario Williams vs. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Yes, Williams did sack Roethlisberger once in Sunday's game, but he really wasn't much of a factor in the Steelers' 38-17 pounding of the Texans.

It'll be interesting to see how ESPN and EA Sports use the Virtual Playbook to illustrate longer plays that aren't crammed around the line of scrimmage.

For now, though, two minutes of cool technology don't make up for two hours of Chris Berman's blathering.

— PRICE CLUB: You can now buy an Xbox 360 for less than a Nintendo Wii (that is, if you can find the latter).

Unfortunately, it's the Xbox 360 Arcade — the one without a hard drive, which makes it nearly useless if you want to download games — that's now on sale for $200, down from $280.

Still, Microsoft's other models are cheaper too. The Xbox 360 Pro, with a 60-gigabyte hard drive, has had its price cut from $350 to $300. The Xbox 360 Elite, with a 120GB hard drive, is now $400, down from $450.

— NEW IN STORES: Electronic Arts' long-gestating "Spore" finally comes to the PC and Mac, along with "Spore Creatures" for the DS. ... Two hockey giants face off again with 2K Sports' "NHL 2K9" (Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2) and EA Sports' "NHL 09" (EAS, 360, PS3). ... That other wrestling league finally gets its own game, Midway's "TNA Impact!" (360, PS3, PS2).