Explainer: Why Did GTA IV Lack On Various Occasions And Platforms; All You Need To Know
An epic game that created history and changed the gaming industry along the way. One of the most anticipated games by the community, the work of one of the most famous and beloved developers on the market, promised to revolutionize the open-world genre and incidentally demonstrate the enormous potential of a new generation of video consoles, with which, precisely, intended to coincide with its launch.
Unfortunately, the ambition of the project was such that the game was delayed several times, drawing the ire of the fans. Cyberpunk 2077? Absolutely. Most veterans already know that we do not usually deal with current affairs. The video game We’re talking about is Grand Theft Auto IV, the Rockstar Game masterpiece, which certainly has many parallels with the controversial CD Projekt Red project. So many that it is even scary. Although with a subtle difference: where the Polish studio has proven to fail, Rockstar Games got away with it. What’s more, they gave a lesson that the developers of Cyberpunk 2077 could well have learned.
Let’s go back to 2007 for a moment. Xbox 360 has been working very well for a couple of years now, while PlayStation 3 has just appeared on the European market. Three years had passed since Rockstar Games wowed the world with the latest instalment in its Grand Theft Auto saga, the extraordinary GTA: San Andreas, and since then it seemed as if the saga had taken a breather. The New York studio continued to amaze the world throughout that time with groundbreaking projects like Manhunt, which we told you about recently, or Bully, which we’ve also told you a lot about, but no one understood what was happening with GTA, well Rockstar had never allowed more than two years to pass between two instalments in the series.
The studio had started working on the new instalment of Grand Theft Auto shortly after finishing San Andreas, but that development, in the words of its producer Sam Houser, whose exciting story you can read in this special, was hellish. since the first day. The main reason was the change of generation. Both GTA III and its two sequels used the same graphics engine, making the work of its developers much easier, but in the face of the next generation Grand Theft Auto Houser felt that “(…) there was a new kind of expectation: people were going to expect something extremely cool, very progressive and evolved from anything they’ve seen before.”
We are not going to go into details about the development of Grand Theft Auto IV because that would deserve its column. It is enough to understand, as the title itself demonstrated, that this new instalment was indeed light years away from its prequels. Not only on the technical side. Although the size of the map was smaller than that of San Andreas, the options and level of detail in GTA IV dwarfed those of its prequel.
More than a thousand different people worked at one time or another on a project that at the time was crowned as the video game with the highest costs in history, above the hitherto unbeaten Shenmue, whose bill exceeded one hundred million dollars. It was during E3 in 2006 when Peter Moore, the main visible face of Microsoft’s video game division at the time, announced to the entire world that Rockstar Games was working on that desired fourth instalment. The promised date: mid-October 2007, a few months after the appearance of PS3 in Europe.
That date was predictable. Most of the big projects until then had appeared between October and November, in a deliberate attempt to coincide with the Christmas season – or even in the case of the United States with Thanksgiving and its Black Friday. Few megatons appeared outside of these dates. From the moment that Atari’s Home Pong became the best-selling toy of Christmas 1974, all Western corporations were betting on launching their most anticipated projects a few months before Christmas. That same year 2007, without going any further, it was planned that during November Mass Effect, Crysis, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Super Mario Galaxy would appear. Although it is also true that that year the catalogue was so crowded that other great titles, such as Bioshock and Halo 3, had to see the light during the last months of summer.
It was rare for the blockbuster to appear outside of these months and even more so for it to be scheduled for the first half of the year because we suppose it was considered that the public would still be engrossed with the games from the previous year. That is why the surprise was great when Rockstar announced that not only would Grand Theft Auto IV not appear on the promised date, but it would also be delayed until April of the following year.
How Did Delay Happen
The parallels with Cyberpunk 2077 are inevitable. The delay was taken with disappointment by the community, which had been waiting months expectantly for that launch. The news, as reported by our colleague Álvaro Castellano in this same house on August 7, 2007, caused “the North American giant to register a drop in the value of its shares of up to 19%.”Rumours broke out, which claimed, among other things, that the main culprit for the delay was the PlayStation 3 version, which would have choked Rockstar Games. Or that the problem was the Xbox 360 without a hard drive, so the game would force you to buy one.
Even though there were contractual commitments between the different companies no version was superior to another. In any case, the main difference between this episode and that of Cyberpunk 2077, according to the latest news, was the reaction of executives and investors. Strauss Zelnick and Ben Feder, directors of Take-Two, assured the press that they had explained the situation to their investors and that “certain elements of development need more time than initially anticipated, especially considering the simultaneous release of the game for two very different platforms.” We will never know the reaction of those investors, but the decision of Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive prevailed.
What Rockstar Has To Say?
Grand Theft Auto IV finally saw the light of day on April 29, 2008. According to the press, Rockstar was working on it until a week before its launch, which despite being so far from the Christmas campaign, worked extremely well. In just twenty-four hours, more than three and a half million copies were sold, surpassing all records that had been and will be, which meant more than three hundred million dollars in income for his production company.
The game was unanimously acclaimed by the press and community, immediately becoming a timeless classic still acclaimed today, and also recognized as one of the best-selling games in history with a total of twenty-five million units. Still, one can’t help but wonder what would have happened. If Rockstar Games had rushed its launch instead of postponing it for half a year. Zelnick assured the press that “the delay was essential to ensure the quality of GTA IV.” The story probably would have been very different.
The Grand Theft Auto IV case should have taught us a valuable lesson. Neither the shareholders nor the distributors matter, nor even the opinion of the players. What matters is the game. Which should be delayed as long as necessary to ensure its quality. As Shigeru Miyamoto said many years ago: “A late game will eventually be a good game. A rushed game is forever a bad game.”
We could once again recommend the interesting Jacked, a reference reading when it comes to talking about Rockstar, but for a change, we recommend this book by Harold Goldberg. Strictly speaking, it’s not a Grand Theft Auto book, because it covers several topics, but his profile on Sam Houser is one of the best we’ve ever read, making it easier to understand this prolific developer.