By Malathi Nayak
(Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc said on Thursday it has pushed back the launch of the latest game from its hit "Grand Theft Auto" franchise to September 17 from its previously announced release window of spring 2013.
Shares of Take-Two were down six percent at $12.31 in early afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.
The delay was to allow Take-Two's Rockstar Games studio, which develops "Grand Theft Auto" games, additional development time, the video game company said.
"Grand Theft Auto V" will be released worldwide for Microsoft Corp's Xbox and Sony Corp's PlayStation3 game consoles on September 17, the company said.
The action-adventure game lets players complete criminal missions in urban settings. The franchise's last title "Grand Theft Auto IV" has sold over 25 million units since its release in 2008.
Grand Theft Auto V is set in a fictional city inspired by present-day Southern California.
The delayed launch pushes earnings from Grand Theft Auto V sales from June to September, Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said. The new title of the massively popular franchise has the potential to rake in close to $1 billion in retail sales and sell 15 to 20 million units, according to Bhatia.
"It adds to their development cost and it's launching closer to what we think is going to be a period where new consoles will be coming out and there will be more competition from other titles," Bhatia said.
The video game industry has been struggling to cope with flagging sales over the last year. Analysts say consumers are holding back from buying hardware and software as they wait for rumored next-generation versions of Sony Corp's PlayStation and Microsoft Corp's Xbox, expected later this year.
The delay could mean Take-Two is possibly creating a "cross-generation" title that could work on current and next-generation consoles, said analyst Mike Hickey of National Alliance Capital Markets.
"Remember, Xbox signed an exclusive deal with Rockstar at the beginning of the prior cycle for episodic content, and Sony provided exclusive resources for the completion of Grand Theft Auto IV," Hickey said.
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alden Bentley)
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