Fans queue through the night and skive work to play controversial new computer game Grand Theft Auto IVLink
Computer game fans have queued through the night to get their hands on the first copies of the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto IV which was released at midnight - and many will take the day off work so they can start playing straight away.
As the most eagerly-awaited computer game of the year finally went on sale, firms across the UK were preparing themselves for a wave of sickies.
According to a poll by play.com, a whopping 40 per cent of those buying it say they'll be skiving off work this morning to play it non-stop.
The online shop has been taking up to 80 pre-orders a minute of the latest gaming adventure.
Play.com CEO Stuart Rowe said: "It's the biggest game of the year by a country mile. We always look forward to a Grand Theft Auto release, we even call it a 'GTA Year'."
He has hired an extra 90 staff for launch day.
The game casts players as an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes after falling in with a crime syndicate.
It is the latest release from Rockstar Games and the follow-up in a franchise that has sold more than 70 million copies since the original was released in 2001.
It is expected to break all UK sales records but the adults-only games have been dogged by criticism about their violent nature and storylines that include drug-dealing and prostitution.
Earlier this week, copies accidentally went on sale at various UK stores with claims by angry fans in internet forums that some shops intentionally broke the release date to cash-in on GTA mania.
One of the key features of the game will allow 16 people to play together at once.
But the game's developers Rockstar have come under fire for glamorising crime and violence.
San Andreas, the third 3D game in the series, hit the headlines when hackers discovered a highly explicit "game within the game" - known as Hot Coffee - that prompted censors to temporarily withdraw the game from sale and reclassify it as adults only.