Rockstar Games is known to be one of the finest studios around the globe. Originally known as DMA Design, the studio came into the spotlight with Grand Theft Auto which came out in 1997. However, the turn of the century brought with itself great fame and acclaim for the developer when it released Grand Theft Auto 3 to rave reviews and sales in 2001. Ever since then, Rockstar has enjoyed its position as the cream of the crop by sustaining a consistent and quality output of genre-pushing titles over the years. However, Take-Two’s premier group of institutions has been making a ton of choices lately that have significantly marred down its reputation in the public. From no news on Grand Theft Auto 6 to the very recent debacle that was Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition’s release, one cannot help but ask- what the hell happened to Rockstar?
While such a dip in Rockstar’s reputation might have come as a shock to some, upon closer inspection it can be seen that slowly but steadily the developer’s bad moves have gradually decreased the brand’s market credibility over the past few years. It all started with Red Dead Redemption 2, which while an amazing game that pushed the boundaries of open-world games came at the cost of hundreds of employees crunching for weeks and months on end. This wasn’t the first time the studio crunched to get a game out in time, although this time it did have a big impact with extensive reporting on the matter finally raising the question of whether a good game and lofty bonuses justify the extended periods of labor.
The studio also saw key departures including but not limited to co-founder Dan Houser who served the role of lead writer on Red Dead Redemption 2 and allegedly worked 100-hour weeks to finish the game. Another key writer on the game, Lazlow Jones also left the company during the same time – and while this is pure speculation, it’s quite possible that both might have been burnt out by working on the same kind of games over and over again. This is further backed by the fact that Dan Houser left to form his new studio named Absurd Ventures In Games.
Rockstar might have a stellar portfolio of games that have great commercial and critical reception, but the studio has almost exclusively focused on Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption 2 over the past decade – with the exception of 2012’s Max Payne 3. Games that were confirmed to be in development such as the likes of Agent and others rumored to be in development like Bully 2, have likely been canned in favour of bigger projects that for a fact are known to sell well. Of course, given the sheer budgets that games of this scale require – it is understandable that Take-Two and Rockstar would try to mitigate as much risk as required, it does come at a cost of employees burning out to a point where they leave in favour of greener pastures – as has already happened with the company.
Even so, Rockstar hasn’t had the same output for its darling franchises as it once used to in the past. Grand Theft Auto 5 is perhaps the prime example of this. Ever since the game’s release in 2013, Grand Theft Auto 5 has endured a whole console generation and multiple re-releases. To be fair, Rockstar has provided players with a ton of quality content over the years with its online offerings – although this has again come at the cost of Grand Theft Auto 6.
It’s been well over 8 years since the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, and fans have little to no information about Grand Theft Auto 6. What is absurd is that Rockstar is still hard at work on developing the current-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto 5 for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S which again could be great for all it’s worth, but Rockstar’s intention with the re-release seems to be aiming more towards financial vices than something in favour of the game itself. Rumours from credible sources suggest that Rockstar might be aiming for a more online-oriented approach with Grand Theft Auto 6 with an evolving map among other things, which could turn out to be great for all intents and purposes – but alienates a rather solid chunk of its fanbase that has been clamoring for meaningful single-player content for such a long time. Also, it raises a big question as to why Rockstar likely hasn’t put enough resources towards the development of the next Grand Theft Auto 6, instead choosing to focus squarely on pumping out more content for GTA 5‘s online offerings?
And let’s talk about their latest blunder. Grove Street Games’ latest Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is another great case of Rockstar and Take-Two’s greedy behavior. It’s not all bad – there are some improvements to the experience such as the impressive lighting overhaul and improved image quality. But its shortcomings in other departments such as textures, animations, missing features, and the like weigh down those positives by such a margin that one cannot be but underwhelmed or rather disappointed by the package. More so, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive purposefully delisted the original games from digital storefronts, took down mods that to be honest do a far better job at bringing the games to a modern audience, and intentionally hid proper gameplay until the game was released to the public. All parties are trying to save face right now, with Grove Street Games working on patches and Take-Two giving away the original versions of the games to those who bought the trilogy via the Rockstar Games Launcher.
Rockstar and by extension, its parent company Take-Two Interactive have taken a dip in quality, sure – but the million-dollar question is whether this is just a temporary dip caused by mistaken steps or the new face of Rockstar that’s most concerned with increasing its profits and stock prices over pushing boundaries and creating unforgettable experiences? That’s hard to say right now, but the more important question is whether its current missteps matter in the long run? Will any of it actually matter to countless fans when the studio drops the cover on the much-expected Grand Theft Auto 6 or Red Dead Redemption 3 in the coming years?
That’s unlikely. Given the reputation that Rockstar and its IPs enjoy in the current gaming landscape, regardless of whatever the hell is going with Rockstar and Take-Two fans will undoubtedly flock towards its shiny game whenever it comes out. That’s likely going to remain the case for quite some time now, so we can only hope that Rockstar and Take-Two figure out their shortcomings and improve themselves for the better.
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