In 2021, any console maker would go out of their way to get the exclusivity of a new Grand Theft Auto. And they’re offering Rockstar Games crazy sums for the right to offer episodes of the series on their on-demand gaming services. But with the approach of the release of the first episode of GTA in 3D, the playful and commercial values of the series were not yet proven. This prompted Microsoft to play the card of caution.
Xbox has just revealed that it refused the GTA 3 exclusivity when Rockstar Games offered it. Microsoft has just recounted this embarrassing a posteriori anecdote in its documentary series on the history of Xbox. Representatives of the American giant explain that with the approach of the release of the first Xbox, they toured studios around the world to try to seduce developers and publishers.
Kevin Bachus, then in charge of relations with third parties, explains that in 2001, he was approached by a small structure. The latter wanted “dust off“one of its 2D licenses released on PC. The idea was to transform the original format into a 3D game. And it offered, for a fee, to Microsoft to have this game exclusively.
The Xbox executives at the time to whom the project was submitted were not, however, thrilled. According to the documentary, the latter were indeed not convinced of the success of the transition from 2D to 3D. And still according to Kevin Bachus, the bosses of Xbox found the concept “complicated“and did not understand the user interface. The offer was therefore rejected.
When Xbox doubted the potential of a 3D GTA
Bad luck for Xbox, this game was GTA 3. As the documentary recalls, the original version of Grand Theft Auto III finally sold 14.5 million copies. This is more commonly referred to as a failed act.
Seamus Blackley, the “father of the Xbox” reacted on his Twitter account to the dissemination of this anecdote. He in turn reveals that he was one of those who turned down GTA 3. And he also brings a few more details to the story:
Sam (Houser) from Rockstar came over and introduced us to the game. He was very enthusiastic about a game, a sure hit. And much less about another, which he saved for last. The last five minutes were spent on GTA 3. And what was the exciting new game he was looking to sell? Austin Powers. True story.
I will not lie. I was skeptical about the 3D transformation of GTA, a 2D game. And I was wrong. Just like everyone else in this room. That kind of shows you the kind of expert we all were back then.
The privilege of hindsight
For the record, Rockstar Games has indeed published two Austin Powers games. However, these were only released on Game Boy Color. So it’s hard to know exactly which title Seamus Blackley is referring to here. Perhaps it is the Austin Powers game initially in development on Dreamcast. And which ultimately never came out.
GTA 3 as well as the other two episodes of the “trilogy” ended up being released on Xbox. However, this arrival was made some time after their marketing on PS2. In conclusion, it’s natural to wonder what would have changed if the groundbreaking Grand Theft Auto III had initially been released exclusively for Xbox. But unless a way to visit parallel universes is found anytime soon, we’ll never know.
Are you surprised that Rockstar offered Xbox to have GTA 3 exclusive? And are you surprised that Microsoft refused this proposal? What do you think things would have changed had GTA III been an Xbox exclusive initially? Tell us all in the comments below.