Leading up to the release of GTA IV, Rockstar were very secretive about the content of the game. The only official information released was the four trailers and some 'teaser' updates to the GTA IV websites. Due to this, many fans attempted to extract and leak game information from various sources, which resulted in everything from maps to copies of the game being leaked onto the Internet.
Right before release of the game on April 29th, reviews began popping up on numerous websites and magazines. Rockstar unusually insisted that the gameplay happened whilst supervised in a hotel room, rather than sending out copies of the game to reviewers. Earlier occurrences of this involved a Rockstar employee playing the game to demonstrate it to reporters, without the press being able to play it themselves. All of them were very positive, with the majority of the press giving out a score of 10/10. Examples of this are from 2 of the internet's most well-known websites, Gamespot and IGN who both gave that perfect score.
As a result of the largely impressive review scores for Grand Theft Auto IV, popularity heightened. Even though the game was leaked for illegal download, days before the real street release date, GTA IV experienced a great amount of sales. As stated by Take Two, first-day sales for the game was over 3.6 million, equivalent to $310 million. In its first week, Grand Theft Auto IV sold over 6 million units globally, generating income of approximately $500 million. These staggering sales easily beats out Halo 3's first day ($170 million) and week-long ($300 million) sales, the last record for largest amount of sales in this given time. As Take Two chairman, Strauss Zelnick, stated, "Grand Theft Auto IV's first week performance represents the largest launch in the history of interactive entertainment, and we believe these retail sales levels surpass any movie or music launch to date."
According to retailers more than 60% of all GTA games sold in the first week were the Xbox 360 version, although UK supermarket ASDA reported that their PlayStation 3 version was outselling the 360 version 3 to 1. According to retailers, roughly 40% of Xbox 360 consoles are now bought with a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV, and Xbox sales increased by 54% in the week of the GTA IV launch.
Within the first week, GTA IV also became the most played game on Xbox LIVE. More than 2.3 million gamers played GTA IV online in that week, and that had unlocked 12 million achievements worth 100 million gamerscore points between them. The average Xbox LIVE gamer spent 4 hours playing GTA IV online that week, meaning that Xbox LIVE hit 1 million concurrent users within the launch week of GTA IV.
Fan reception of the game, while positive, did not escape criticism. Many fans were quick to note certain features from San Andreas (haircuts, weight gain/loss, and tattoos, among others) being omitted in GTA IV. The driving physics within the game were panned by fans, as many considered the vehicles far too tough to handle, particularly during chases.
However, the story was widely praised by fans, with the character of Niko being considered arguably the most popular protagonist ever in the GTA franchise.