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GTA: A History of the Franchise

A look back at the first decade of Grand Theft Auto from 1997-2008

Grand Theft Auto: A Brief History

1997:

  • Release date of Grand Theft Auto for the PC and PlayStation according to Rockstar
  • Originally titled "Race-n-Chase," the game was created by Dave Jones and developed by DMA Design. Published by BMG Interactive (Europe) and ASC (North America). The game featured the fictional Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City and allowed players to listen to music from their own audio CDs.
  • DMA Design is bought out by Gremlin Interactive

1998:

  • Release date of Grand Theft Auto according to copyright on game packaging and date that the first reviews appeared
  • BMG Interactive is purchased by Take-Two Interactive

1999:

  • Two mission packs released - London 1969 and London, 1961 - for the PC. The first is also released for the PlayStation as the first (and only?) expansion pack for a PlayStation game. It requires the original GTA to run.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 is released for the PlayStation, PC and Dreamcast and is rated T by the ESRB. It also features FMV sequences written by Dan Houser.
  • An edited version of Grand Theft Auto, rated T by the ESRB, is released for the Game Boy Color
  • Dave Jones leaves the company when Gremlin Interactive is acquired by Infogrames. Infogrames sells DMA Design to Take-Two Interactive, and the developer is renamed Rockstar North

2001:

  • Grand Theft Auto III is released for the PlayStation 2. The story takes place in Liberty City and players take the role of an unnamed, non-speaking protagonist. Radio stations are still present in the game, with popular music licensed for the soundtrack for the first time
  • GTA III becomes the best-selling game of 2001 in the US according to NPD Group data. In 2002, it is the second best-selling game of the year in the US, behind only Vice City
  • The game receives a Metacritic rating score of 97% - the highest of the franchise
  • To date, 14.5 million copies of the game have been sold
  • The game receives 2002 Game Developers Choice Awards for "Game of the Year" and "Excellence in Game Design"

2002:

  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is released for the PlayStation 2. Set in 1986, players take the role of Tommy Vercetti in a city modeled after Miami, Florida
  • GTA: Vice City becomes the best-selling game of 2002 in the US according to NPD Group data
  • The game receives a Metacritic rating score of 94%
  • To date, 17.5 million copies of the game have been sold

2003:

  • Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack - which includes both III and Vice City - is released for the PS2 and the Xbox, marking the first appearance of the franchise on Microsoft's console. The Xbox version is developed by Rockstar Vienna
  • Jack Thompson files a USD 246 million lawsuit against Rockstar, Take-Two, SCEA and Wal-Mart on behalf of two youngsters shot by teenagers who claimed to be inspired by GTA III. The plaintiffs later voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit

2004:

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is released for PlayStation 2 set in locations inspired by Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Players take the role of Carl "CJ" Johnson, and for the first time in the series the main character can swim. The game becomes the best-selling title in the franchise
  • The game receives a Metacritic rating score of 95%
  • To date, 21.5 million copies of the game have been sold
  • Grand Theft Auto Advance is released for the GameBoy Advance, receiving an M rating from the ESRB

2005:

  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is released for the PSP and is later ported to the PlayStation 2. To date, 8 million copies of the game have been sold
  • Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - including III, Vice City and San Andreas - is released for the Xbox
  • Production is suspended after sexual content is discovered on the disc and the ESRB issues a revised rating of "AO." Rockstar releases a patch for the PC version and re-releases the console version with an M rating after deleting the offending content
  • Jack Thompson files suit against GameStop, Wal-Mart, Take-Two and SCEA on behalf of a teenager who was sentenced to death for killing three members of the Alabama police in 2003, blaming the games for his actions. He was later removed from the case

2006:

  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is released for the PSP and later ported to the PlayStation 2. To date, 4.5 million copies of the game have been sold
  • Jack Thompson files a USD 600 million lawsuit against Rockstar, Take-Two, SCEA and Cody Posey - a teenager who murdered his father, stepmother and stepsister - alleging that obsessive playing of Vice City was to blame. The lawsuit was thrown out in 2007

2007:

  • Take-Two investors oust the company's board of directors and CEO/president Paul Eibeler. Strauss Zelnick leads the new board
  • Grand Theft Auto IV, originally scheduled for an October release, is delayed until 2008
  • A Take-Two financial report reveals that Microsoft paid the company USD 50 million for downloadable content exclusive to the Xbox 360 version

2008:

  • Electronic Arts makes a bid to acquire Take-Two which is rejected by the company's board of directors
  • Take-Two announces that it has sold a total of 70 million units amongst all titles in the GTA franchise
  • Grand Theft Auto IV is released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is the first title in the series to offer downloadable content

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