An SEC report from Take-Two Interactive earlier this month revealed that Rockstar Games Vice President Dan Houser would be exiting the company in March. Rockstar Games is a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive.
The SEC report, dated February 4, 2020, detailed, “After an extended break beginning in the spring of 2019, Dan Houser, Vice President, Creative at Rockstar Games, will be leaving the company. Dan Houser’s last day will be March 11, 2020.”
It continued, “We are extremely grateful for his contributions. Rockstar Games has built some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful game worlds, a global community of passionate fans and an incredibly talented team, which remains focused on current and future projects.”
Houser was the head writer on iconic games like Bully, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and Red Dead Redemption II. He was also a writer on the Grand Theft Auto series including Grand Theft Auto 2 to Grand Theft Auto 5.
Leading up to the release of Red Dead Redemption II, Houser told Vulture that his team at Rockstar Games was working 100-hour weeks to get the game finished. Houser stated, “We were working 100-hour weeks.” He would clarify his statement to Variety telling them he was referring to himself and a team of three others. Variety details that his statement explained “the company would never expect anyone else to work that way.”
Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive didn’t address Houser’s departure initially, but reiterated that Sam Houser, Dan’s brother and a co-founder at Rockstar Games, is still with the company.
According to IGN, a Rockstar Games spokesperson said,
“Sam Houser’s role with Rockstar Games, which he founded in 1998, remains unchanged. Sam and the team remain focused on current and future projects.”
In Take-Two Interactive’s most recent earnings call, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Strauss H. Zelnick confirmed the SEC report saying, “So Dan Houser had been on an extended leave since early spring 2019. The company has been led since its founding by Sam Houser, who’s President of the company, and it’s an extraordinary team effort and Sam is a great player and coach.”
Strauss went on to detail that Grand Theft Auto V has now sold 120 million units and Red Dead Redemption II is up to 29 million units after launching on PC and Stadia. They also indicated that Grand Theft Auto online is expected to have a record year even after launching six years ago. He also detailed that Red Dead Online is also “3 times year-over-year and sequentially in the last quarter.”
Strauss added, “So the label has really never been stronger. We’re incredibly optimistic and excited. At the same time, we’re grateful to Dan for his contributions, and we wish him well.”
Dan and Sam Houser were executives at BMG Interactive before it was acquired by Take-Two. The Houser brothers founded Rockstar Games under Take-Two in December 1998.
Their impressive resume together includes writing and developing games like Grand Theft Auto, and Red Dead Redemption, but also Bully, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, and Smuggler’s Run.
Grand Theft Auto V, which was released on September 17, 2013 was in the top 10 top selling games for the past 12 months ending January 2020 according to NPD. It was the ninth most sold game.
While Strauss indicated Take-Two Interactive is optimistic about Rockstar Games going forward, Dan Houser was a key component in the success of many of the studio’s core games. It’s a significant loss.
It’s really unclear what we would even do with it, let alone how upset people would get with whatever we did. Both intense liberal progression and intense conservatism are both very militant, and very angry. It is scary but it’s also strange, and yet both of them seem occasionally to veer towards the absurd. It’s hard to satirise for those reasons. Some of the stuff you see is straightforwardly beyond satire. It would be out of date within two minutes, everything is changing so fast.
Having Sam Houser still with Rockstar should temper the blow left by his brother’s departure. There’s no doubt that the company will have some big shoes to fill going forward.
Grand Theft Auto VI is highly anticipated, and Dan Houser’s ability to tell a story while navigating the challenging waters of today’s current society will be missed on the next project.
Will Rockstar be able to continue its high level of storytelling?
Let us know what you think, Rockstar fans.