UPDATE: We've just received confirmation from Rockstar that these designs are *not* representative of what the final box art will look like. They're official teasers, yes, but they're not the final box art. We'd like to apologize for crushing the dreams of anyone who got their hopes up. Really.
The box art for Grand Theft Auto titles have always been a point of much debate in the months leading up to a new release. Rather than baiting gamers, Rockstar has typically taken the conservative approach by keeping the artwork a secret until shortly before launch.
This time, however, it seems that Rockstar has chosen to break with tradition and ship out new "dummy" boxes to retailers.
These new dummy boxes feature the GTA IV logo superimposed over familiar game artwork (granted, the one in the middle hasn't been seen before). They're definitely a far cry from both Rockstar's typical teaser boxes (which have been sitting on store shelves for months now) and the standard box art of all major Grand Theft Auto titles released since GTA 3.
That being said, we're certainly not going to jump the gun and assume that these are the official box designs. EDIT: We've confirmed with Rockstar that these designs are official teasers, nothing more. Refer to the update at the top of this post.
So, are these new boxes instead a move by T2's marketing division - a sign of things to come, perhaps - or are they simply an attempt to show that GTA IV hasn't keeled over?
According to an article recently posted on XboxFamily.com, it may just be a bit of both. To paraphrase the article, "letters enclosed with the packages sent to retailers hint at further unreleased designs popping up soon".
Let's just hope these unreleased designs are more than Niko with a shotgun.
Source: GTA IV Official Box Art In-Hand
Related Link: GTAForums Topic