Hundreds of gaming fans queued overnight to get their hands on the first copies of Grand Theft Auto V, which is thought to be the most expensive computer game ever produced.

The game goes on sale today, but many outlets opened especially at midnight to facilitate gamers keen to get their hands on the new version of the popular franchise.

Some fans claimed to have received their copies early, following an alleged breach of the strict sales embargo by online retailer Amazon.

The company behind the game, Rockstar, has said it is investigating claims that some pre-orders were delivered on Friday and Monday, ahead of today's launch. Amazon said it only effected a small number of buyers.

Grand Theft Auto V reportedly cost more than €200m to produce and market - more than most large budget blockbuster Hollywood movies. However Rockstar is expected to earn more than €1.2 billion in sales from the latest in the franchise and it is predicted that more than 25 million copies of the game will be sold this year alone.

The Grand Theft Auto series began in 1997, and since then more than 135 million copies have been sold around the world.

The latest version, set in the mythical southern Californian city of Los Santos, features three characters who can take part in a variety of savoury and not-so-savoury activities, including robberies, murders, torturing, drug taking and lap dancing.

The release of the new title, which carries an 18s certificate, is likely to reignite arguments about the effects violent video games have on young people. Numerous studies have suggested that violent computer games can have harmful effects on teens who play them.

However, other studies have disputed this, including one released last month which found no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behaviour among vulnerable youths with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.

The release of the game is expected to lead to an increase in annual leave and sick days around the world today, as fans stay at home to try the new version. Gaming website IGN polled 11,000 readers, and found 46% have booked a day off today so that they can try out GTA V.