Rockstar and GTA: Between Popularity and Controversy

Social Games - Poplaramber88 - February 7, 2021

Each game developer usually has their own expertise. For example, Riot Games had success with League of Legends, a MOBA. Therefore, to create Ruined King, an RPG genre, they took other developers. In contrast, Obsidian was known for their single-player games, such as The Outer World and Pillars of Eternity. Interestingly, Rockstar Games succeeded in making the popular single-player and multiplayer games with Grand Theft Auto V.

History of Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games was founded in December 1998 as part of Take-Two Interactive. To establish Rockstar, Take-Two used assets from BMG Interactive, which they acquired in March 1998. Through this acquisition, Take-two acquired two intellectual properties from BMG, namely Grand Theft Auto and Space Station Silicon Valley.

Following Take-Two’s acquisition of BMG, three BMG executives moved to New York to work under Take-Two. The three people are Jamie King and the Houser brothers: Sam and Dan. Terry Donnovan, who briefly worked for the record label BMG Entertainment, is also following in the trio’s footsteps. These four men are considered the co-founders of Rockstar.

Besides BMG Interactive, Take-Two also bought DMA Design, the developer of Grand Theft Auto, in September 1999. DMA Design was founded in 1987 by David Jones. At the beginning of its establishment, DMA received support from the Psygnosis publisher. At that time, DMA’s focus was on making games for three PCs, namely Amiga, Commodore 64, and Atari ST.

DMA Design has succeeded in making a number of popular games, such as Menace and Blood Money. In 1991, they launched Lemmings, a puzzle-platformer game that became a hit on the international market. According to the Opium Pulses report, Lemmings sold 15 million units. Not only that, in the 1991-2000 period, Lemmings received 5 sequels and 2 expansions. DMA’s success with Lemmings allowed them to create even more ambitious games. One of them is Grand Theft Auto.

The first Grand Theft Auto was launched in October 1997. Shortly after, DMA Design was purchased by Gremlin Interactive for GBP4.2 million. Under Gremlin, DMA released several new games, such as Body Harvest, Space Station Silicon Valley, Tanktics, and Wild Metal Country. However, Gremlin was later acquired by Infogrames for GBP24 million and assets from DMA Design were sold to Take-Two Interactive.

In 1999, Take-Two acquired DMA Design. At that time, they were developing GTA3D and Grand Theft Auto: Crime World. Although the development of Crime World was ultimately discontinued, DMA continued to make GTA3D, whose name was later changed to Grand Theft Auto III. In October 2001, GTA III was launched for the PlayStation 2. A few months after that, in March 2002, DMA Design was integrated with Rockstar Games. The studio name was changed to Rockstar North as of May 2002.

GTA at a Glance

After operating for more than two decades, Rockstar Games owns several popular franchises, such as Red Dead, Max Payne, and Manhunt. However, it cannot be denied that Grand Theft Auto is their most popular franchise.

The first Grand Theft Auto was developed in April 1995. At that time, the game was titled Race’n’Chase. Indeed, at first, GTA was made with the concept of a multiplayer racing game that allows players to crash their cars against each other. However, the concept of the game then changed to action adventure.

David Jones, founder of DMA Design who is also a Producer of GTA, revealed that Pac-Man is one of the games that inspires GTA. You may be wondering how Pac-Man can be the inspiration for GTA? In Pac-Man, you have to eat all the dots and avoid the Ghosts. While in GTA, you can hit pedestrians with a car, even if that means you have to be prepared to be chased by the police.

Apart from Pac-Man, another game that has inspired GTA is Elite, said Gary Penn, who at that time served as Creative Director of DMA. Elite, which was launched in 1984, is a game about space trading and combat simulation. In its time, this game was considered a revolutionary game because it used 3D graphics and an open-world system.

Development of Grand Theft Auto itself did not go smoothly. Repeatedly, the game was about to be canceled. However, the developers at DMA are determined to finish the game.

Controversy Regarding GTA

Grand Theft Auto is indeed Rockstar Games’ most popular franchise. So far, there have been seven GTA games, four spin-off games, and four expansions. Grand Theft Auto V, launched in 2013, has sold 135 million units. That way, GTA V became the game with the second largest sales figure in the world. With a total income of US $ 60 billion, GTA V is also one of the most profitable games.

Even so, it cannot be denied that GTA games have also drawn criticism and controversy. Explicit violence is one of the reasons Grand Theft Auto has been criticized. For example, in GTA III, players could hire a Commercial Sex Worker and kill her so she doesn’t have to pay. Another reason why GTA often gets protests is the presence of sexual content. The Hot Coffee minigame in GTA: San Andreas is one of the biggest controversies involving GTA. The reason is, the minigame displays a sex scene between the main character and his lover.

Rockstar had actually deactivated the minigame before they released San Andreas. However, as mentioned by Screen Rant, this doesn’t stop modders from activating the code from Hot Coffee so that they can access the minigame’s content. In the end, Rockstar decided to remove the code from Hot Coffee from San Andreas so that the content could no longer be accessed.

Apart from violence and sexual content, Rockstar also received protests because it did not hesitate to include sensitive content related to politics, especially for citizens of the United States. For example, in GTA: Vice City, there is a dialogue calling for support for killing immigrants from Haiti. This got protests from the Haitian-American community.

Single-Player vs Multiplayer

In 2013, one of the hot topics discussed in the gaming industry was whether single-player games were still in demand in the midst of online games. Interestingly, at that time, Rockstar launched Grand Theft Auto V, which focused on single-player elements, and also GTA Online, which is still part of GTA V and is a multiplayer game. At that time, at Polygon, Dan Houser, one of the founders of Rockstar, admitted that he believed that single-player games were still in great demand.

“I think multiplayer games that are well executed attract many people, but the audience of multiplayer games will not be as many as single-player games,” said Houser, as quoted by Polygon. “Multiplayer games can’t do that right now.” Houser revealed, most online games, like Call of Duty, still have a single-player element, although of course, there are still some online games that are exceptions, such as World of Warcraft.

“Even Call of Duty players don’t always play multiplayer mode,” said Houser. “There are still many gamers who like to play single-player adventure games. And I think that’s the kind of games we make. Our action adventure games have strong adventure mechanics and components. Indeed, our game is not an RPG. However, the difference between our action adventure games and RPGs is getting thinner. ”

Furthermore, he said, “I think single-player games still have their problems. However, single-player adventure games can still sell if they are of high quality. Just like a multiplayer game that can become popular if it’s interesting. “

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