Citing “retail channel checks”, Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia believes that Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V will launch in early 2013.

Some punters had hoped that the highly anticipated sequel would be released in time for the 2012 holiday season. However, Bhatia’s more prudent and plausible estimation is in line with Rockstar’s recent release history. L.A. Noire and Red Dead Redemption were both released in the first half of 2011 and 2010 respectively, while Max Payne 3 is also scheduled for release before June.

In addition, Bhatia believes the release date will mean there’s a larger Wii U install base for a potential Nintendo SKU. Altogether, he believes there are four advantages for Take-Two in seeing the game published next year:

“We believe releasing GTA V in F4Q instead of F3Q will provide four advantages to TTWO: 1) a less crowded window away from the big holiday releases such as Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed etc. Recall, the previous GTA title (GTA IV) was released on April 29, 2008, i.e., also away from the holiday period; 2) smoother earnings in FY14 especially if GTA V launches in the last month of FY13 (March 2013); in other words it will result in stronger GTA V catalog sales in FY14; 3) a larger installed base including the potential for launch on Nintendo Wii U; and 4) an extra couple of months to polish the game.”

Rockstar announced Grand Theft Auto V late last year. Little is known about the game but what information can be gleaned from the first trailer (and the trailer itself) has been summarised by Gameplanet here. Since then, Rockstar has turned its public face back to Max Payne 3.