Terry Donovan

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Think of "grand Theft Auto: Vice City" as a kind of online netherworld, a place inhabited by the gang from HBO's "The Sopranos." Gamers can shoot rivals, engage in high-speed car chases, order gang hits or run errands for the mob.

Developed and marketed by Rockstar Games' Rockstar North label, a subsidiary of Take Two Interactive Software, the game became the best-selling game ever for Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 2. "Vice City" sold half a million copies the day it was released. (Rockstar's previous title-"Grand Theft Auto III" sold 4 million copies in 11 months, paving the way for "Vice City.") The sales of "Vice City" speak volumes about the level of enthusiasm for interactivity, and blanket acceptance of gratuitous violence. "The Sims," "Vice City" is not.

Terry Donovan, a founder of Rockstar Games, is the mastermind behind the game. He also oversaw 2002 marketing and advertising to the tune of $13.5 million in measured media in the U.S., according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

In press interviews, Mr. Donovan isn't shy about the fact that his games aren't for kids. His brash, in-your-face style has caused politicos such as U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., to say the game appears to stoke "perverse, anti-social behavior." The millions of game purchasers might argue with the senator's point.

Mr. Donovan's brilliance lies in "Vice City" extending beyond a mere videogame and into the realm of underground, and yet at the same time, popular culture. Hip-hop music and ecstasy hits imprinted with Rockstar's logo; a barrage of print and TV ads; Web dialogues; and plugs on late-night chat shows have made the brand a major phenomenon.

And just as the soundtrack for "The Sopranos" generated sales for compilation CDs and garnered visibility for then-unknown bands such as A3, which did "The Sopranos" theme song, "Woke Up This Morning," software publishers are also getting into the act.

Cross-promotion of games and music has become a potent force for both sides as embedded music is giving exposure to new bands. Similarly, the "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Original" soundtrack from Sony, provides an access code that allows CD owners to snag cheat codes for the game from the vicecity.com Web site.

KD&E Advertising, New York, handles media buying and planning for Rockstar Games; creative is handled in-house.

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