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There’s no disputing that Grand Theft Auto III was a monumental release in gaming history, taking previously 2D top-down road-traffic carnage into a 3D, fully explorable virtual city. I know I lost a few evenings of what should have been university revision to it, playing deep into the night at a mate’s place (like I could afford a new console at uni, pfft). Its release in October 2001, initially on PlayStation 2 before versions followed for PC and Xbox, was a genuine game changer for the whole games industry - but that history could have been very different.
Now, this might be something you already know, or maybe not - and if you do, well done, you’re undoubtedly the kind of person everyone wants on their pub quiz team. For the rest of us, the revelation that Grand Theft Auto III could have been an Xbox exclusive has come as a fun surprise.
While you’re here, check out our new GTA Wins and Fails video…
This little nugget of trivia comes via the new Power On: The Story of Xbox documentary - which you can find more info on right here. As the below-embedded clip shows, Grand Theft Auto III was offered to Xbox - but they turned it down. The game subsequently came out first on PS2, and didn’t release for Xbox until 2003.
In 2001, Rockstar Games approached Microsoft to pitch GTA3 for the original Xbox but the Microsoft execs outright rejected them – thus forcing them turn to Sony to make the title a limited time exclusive for the PS2, according to a new released documentary by Xbox. pic.twitter.com/ijrJUGlc6g— Ben Turpin (@videotech_) December 14, 2021
Kevin Bachus, head of third-party relations for Xbox between 1999 and 2001 (today a senior VP at Dave and Buster's), tells us:
“One day we presented (to Microsoft executives) a new idea from a small games publisher that wanted to dust off one of the 2D games they’d done for PC. They’re really gonna invest in it, they think it’s going to be really exciting.”
But the execs were not moved. They didn’t feel the game could make the leap from 2D to 3D. Bachus continues: “They felt like it was complicated, they didn’t understand the user interface, they thought it was based on a game that hadn’t been all that successful. And to my surprise, it was rejected.”
Yep, Xbox passed on Grand Theft Auto III - a game that sold two million units in the US alone in its first few months on sale, was the highest-selling game of 2001 despite releasing at the end of the year, and by 2008 had racked up over 14 million copies sold worldwide. Bad call, Microsoft - but I guess you got the game in the end (and it’s not like that small thing called Halo worked out so badly for you). As for GTA, well, we’re still waiting on the sixth main installment of the series - but GTA Online is receiving a brand-new story expansion starring Dr Dre on December 15 (hey, that’s today!), which you can read about here.