Grand Theft Auto V was a landmark launch for Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games, but some GTA series creators weren’t always too optimistic about its future – once viewing it as “very likely not to succeed”.
In an interview with BBC 5, GTA 2 producer Colin Macdonald described the early years working at DMA Design, now Rockstar North, and how the first GTA game in 1997 didn’t have the most favorable prospects. At the time, Macdonald said they were working on seven projects, and a survey of DMA staff showed which games the studio thought would be most and least successful.
“The one who voted most likely to not pass was Grand Theft Auto,” Macdonald said. “That’s because halfway through development the direction of the game wasn’t clear. It was also pretty buggy – you couldn’t play it for more than a few minutes without it crashing, so definitely, at the locally, there wasn’t a lot of trust.”
Macdonald went on to explain how a struggling GTA “wasn’t really well regarded for most of the time it was in production” and went through many iterations. The first pieces of the series started from an experimental project, where players wandered around like a dinosaur destroying buildings. Later, DMA added cars to the game and changed its focus.
GTA’s messy 90s rise to its current successes is chronicled in BBC 5’s seven-part podcast series, Bugzy Malone’s Greatest Game. Macdonald, and the recording as a whole, then describes a GTA team far removed from today’s vision, but who still knew they “had something special.”
Despite these early suspicions of failure, GTA ushered in historic successes for Take-Two Interactive and the gaming industry as a whole. In 2013, GTA 5 hit a record high $1 billion in retail sales in its first three days of launch, making it the fastest entertainment property to reach this milestone. And earlier this month, Take-Two announced that GTA has sold over 385 million units as a franchise, with GTA 5 responsible for 170 million of those units.
Fans are eagerly awaiting the next Grand Theft Auto game, which Rockstar has confirmed is currently in development, although the game has been impacted by high-profile leaks.
Andrea Shearon is a freelance contributor for IGN covering games and entertainment. She’s worn many hats over her seven-year career in the gaming industry, with signings to Fanbyte, USA Today’s FTW, TheGamer, VG247, and RPG Site. Find her on Twitter (@Maajora) or the Materia Possessions podcast discussing FFXIV, RPGs, and any series involving giant robots.