By Jonathan Davies

It has been dubbed as the ‘most exciting’ event of the entertainment calendar, with some suggesting it’s been more eagerly anticipated than the release of Harry Potter and Twilight films. The latest instalment of the Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto V, is released tomorrow (Tuesday).

But the 9am opening times is too long to wait for some gamers. With midnight launches at retailers up and down the UK, thousands are expected to queue to collect their pre-ordered copy — or hoping they’re not sold out by the time they get to the front of the queue for those without pre-orders.

Experts are predicting that 25 million copies of the game will be bought, resulting in first year sales of more than $1billion. But could your business pay the price of the GTA V?

‘GTA flu’ will sweep the nation tomorrow (Tuesday) as thousands of workers are expected to take the day off work to play the game. And businesses will pay the price.

Gaming website IGN.com surveyed 10,995 of its readers to ask whether they would take time off to play Grand Theft Auto V on its release day.

According to the results, almost half (5,059 — 46%) said they have already booked the day off work. A further 2,052 (19%) had already planned to phone in sick, and the remaining 35% said they would wait until getting their copy of the game before deciding whether or not to phone in sick.

"With gamers queuing at midnight to be among the first to play and the developer boasting thousands of hours of gameplay, there's no surprise that we're likely to see an outbreak of GTA flu this September," Tom Butler, social media editor of IGN.com, said.

The game will cost gamers between £40-50 depending on retailer. To calculate the cost to businesses, we’ll say £50 is the price of the game - a figure is just 48p more than a day’s pay on UK National Minimum Wage (NMW).

If no one earned more than NMW and assuming that the remaining 35% decide not to take the day off work, 7,111 IGN readers alone will cost businesses at least £352,136.72. Of course, there is a large possibility and probability that many of that 35% will indeed phone in sick, pushing that figure up.

There are millions of copies expected to be sold in the UK alone, meaning an even higher cost to businesses. Another gaming website reported that 2.5 million pre orders had been made as of September 9th. Combined with the results from IGN.com’s survey, if 65% of those pre orders have already booked the day off or plan to phone in sick, the cost to businesses would rise to £80,470,000.

These figures are also based on everyone earning NMW. If we were to make those calculations based on the UK average wage (£26,500: Office for National Statistics, 2012), the cost to businesses could rise to as much as £165,620,000 in a single day.

Again, this is on the assumption that 35% of gamers purchase GTA V but don’t take the day off work and doesn’t account for the millions of copies that will be bought without pre-orders (people who may then phone in sick).

For many, tomorrow will be a normal working day. But for others it will be a day spent playing one of the most anticipated video games of all time — a day paid for by businesses.

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