GTA’s original devs thought the game was dead in the water

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  • November 29, 2022

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto 1’s release, and it turns out that not everyone was convinced the series had a future ahead of it back in 1997. In fact, GTA was the project voted “most likely not to succeed” by devs at DMA Design (the studio now known as Rockstar North). It now makes half a billion dollars a year from GTA Online (opens in new tab) alone. I guess hindsight is 20/20.

The story comes from a BBC interview (opens in new tab) with Colin Macdonald, a former DMA dev who joined the company a few months before it shipped GTA 1. Apparently, the mood around the studio was pretty sombre, at least insofar as GTA was concerned. Macdonald said that, “mid-development, the direction of the game wasn’t clear. It was also quite buggy—you couldn’t play it for more than a couple of minutes without it crashing”—which GTA Online players might suggest hasn’t changed much—and that “at grassroots level there wasn’t a lot of confidence in [GTA 1]”.