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Steal Cars, Get Rich

What's the antidote to spiraling fuel costs?

How about carjacking some wheels and taking a joyride on someone else's gas tank? Better yet, why not do it virtually from your home to make sure that only your cartoon persona risks getting arrested?

No one -- save for perhaps me -- is suggesting this as a theory for why Take-Two Interactive's (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) Grand Theft Auto IV became the fastest-selling game of all time last week. The game sold 6 million copies worldwide, ringing up $500 million in sales during its first week on the market.

If you thought Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Halo 3 was a star last year for ringing up $300 million in sales in a week, you may as well bow down and hand over your keys to Take-Two.

It's a record likely to stand for some time. Despite gamer speculation on potential heirs to the temporary throne, I don't see it. Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) isn't going to do it. Spore has the buzz and the developer pedigree, but it's too obscure a title to generate any midnight launch parties. Madden 2009 doesn't stand a chance, especially after last year's version undersold the previous year's incarnation. Nintendo is on a roll, but Wii Fit targets a demographic that doesn't rush out to buy a game the moment it hits the market. It also requires a hardware investment, which is also what may get in the way of the next installments of strumming simulations Activision's (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) Guitar Hero and Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) Rock Band.

Everyone knew that Take-Two had a hit on its hands. The franchise has been huge, critical praise was gushing, and even EA's rebuffed buyout offers helped draw media attention to the title.

If Take-Two needed to convince investors that its future was bright without EA, there are now 6 million gamers -- and counting -- nodding along in agreement with the company's decision to pass.

It's not just a game. Between the digitally delivered episodes and MP3 sales in a game 200 songs deep, GTA4 will deliver high-margin profits long after the title stops flying off the shelves. GTA4 isn't the solution to rising fuel costs, though it's certainly what will fuel Take-Two -- a brilliantly timed Rule Breakers recommendation last year -- forward at this point.

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