Video game companies don’t have to make a lot of games for them to become famous. They just have to make games that are actually good. Making a few great games that win awards, get people talking, and are still being enjoyed years later usually leads to companies having an even better reputation than those that put out a lot of mediocre titles. One of the companies that have found great success with only a handful of games is Rockstar Games. Best known for producing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games is still comparably new in the video game scene. But that doesn’t make their impact any less significant.
In fact, in just 20 years and just a few series, Rockstar Games has cemented itself as one of the leading game companies. Most gamers know their name, and can easily tell you which games the studio is behind even if they don’t play those games themselves. So how did Rockstar Games get its start? And how did it become the company it is today, finding success in a very competitive and fast-moving industry?
Whether you’re a fan of Rockstar Games’ games or are just interested in the company’s history, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s check out a brief History of Rockstar Games!
From BMG To Take-Two Interactive
Rockstar Games didn’t start off as Rockstar Games at all. In fact, that name didn’t come around for quite a few years. The company began as BMG Interactive, a British video game company. BMG owned the intellectual property rights to Grand Theft Auto, which would go on to become one of the most well-known Rockstar Games titles in history. In the beginning, though, BMG was an inactive company that was just waiting for an opportunity to come knocking. And indeed it came, in the form of Take-Two Interactive in May 1998. Take-Two also owns the game publisher 2K Games, which is also acquired alongside BMG.
Many of the top executives from BMG moved to New York City to work at the Take-Two headquarters there. They brought their ideas along with them. It was in December of 1998 that a handful of these employees, Terry Donovan, Jamie King, and Sam and Dan Houser, first established Rockstar Games as a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive. It was created to take on the role of the company’s top-end publishing label. Donovan became the executive leader of the Rockstar Games branch and remained as such until January 2007.
Using Take-Two Interactive’s growing success, Rockstar Games was already off to a good start. And since they already had the intellectual property rights to Grand Theft Auto, they had their foot in the door of video game history...
Full Speed Ahead
The first Grand Theft Auto title launched in 1997 by BMG Interactive. The title was a big hit already and left room for expansion on the series. Under the new name of Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto 2 was launched in 1999, specifically by Rockstar Canada. This helped bring the name of Rockstar into the spotlight and get gamers across the globe to start talking about the new subsidiary.
Not afraid to take risks in the world of action-adventure games, Rockstar Games has produced several titles very original in their concept and groundbreaking in the industry. The first Manhunt game was released in 2003, letting players step into the shoes of a serial killer rather than a policeman as most other games did. A survival horror series, Manhunt remains popular today and includes a sequel. LA Noire was released in 2011, is one of the first games to use MotionScan to create realistic facial expressions on the characters and allow for realistic interrogation gameplay. Rockstar Games has continued to release games that are notably different from others on the market, priding themselves in creating unique products.
Rockstar Games is comprised of several smaller subsidiaries put together and all bearing the Rockstar name. The first of these was Rockstar Canada (now Rockstar Toronto), and the company has become even more international since then. The latest subsidiary is Rockstar India, established in 2016, and showing the global influence of the company. All of these smaller subsidiaries remain under the parent company of Rockstar Games, which itself is under the parent company Take-Two Interactive. This family of game companies has helped find the success that Rockstar has over the past twenty years, and they continue to support one another today.
A Promising Future
To this day, Grand Theft Auto remains one of the most famous video game series of all time. It’s the fourth most sold series in the world, falling behind only Mario, Pokemon, and Tetris. Every subsequent game had gotten overall positive reviews, and the series carries Rockstar Games forward all on its own. The latest title, Grand Theft Auto V, sold the most copies in the series’ history so the future is looking positive. Gamers still want to play more and more Grand Theft Auto. It’s easily the title the company is best known for, but don’t forget it’s not the only one.
Rockstar Games could probably exist riding on Grand Theft Auto alone, but it doesn’t. The company has also produced a few other series that have gone on to not only win awards, but also the hearts of gamers across the world. One of the other most successful titles Rockstar Games has released is Red Dead Redemption in 2010, which went on to have an extremely successful sequel in 2018. It sold more than 17 million copies in just two weeks, both critically acclaimed and loved by gamers across the world. The series is widely regarded as one of the greatest in video game history.
In 2011, Dan Houser told the world that Rockstar Games would continue to stand apart from the rest of the video game world. He expressed that the company would continue to focus on developing its own genre of games, avoiding the textbook moneymakers like first-person shooters and that their games would continue to be made with the players in mind. So far this business model has been working well for the company, and they have held true to Houser’s claim. And with Red Dead Redemption 2’s immense success, Rockstar Games seems to be doing something right.
Rockstar Games shows that it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. By sticking to their ideas and producing titles that are well-received both by critics and gamers, they have found incredible success in the video game world. The company itself is only 20 years old, much younger than other massive names like Nintendo and Square Enix, but everyone knows the name all the same. After all, series like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption have been called some of the greatest in video game history, and copies of them still sell to this day. Add into that other titles like the Manhunt series, Max Payne, and LA Noire and you have a recipe for success.
If Rockstar Games continues on its current path for the next 20 years, who knows what kind of games we will be seeing. By the time we are all playing Grand Theft Auto X, the world of video games will likely have changed dramatically from what we know now. But if Rockstar Games continues to adapt with the times and produce it’s own unique and well-planned games, it should still be around - and we will all likely still be playing their games.
What is your favourite Rockstar Games title? Did you learn anything from our brief history? What other game companies would you like to see a similar article about? Let us know in the comments below!