Rockstar Games Co-founder, Vice President of Creativity Dan Houser will leave the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption developer.
In a 8-K form filed by the developer’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive, for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Take-Two Interactive said that Houser’s last day will be March 11, 2020 after an extended break beginning in the spring of 2019.
“We are extremely grateful for his contributions,” said Take-Two Interactive in the form. “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.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Houser founded Rockstar Games in 1998 with his brother, Sam, along with Terry Donovan and Jamie King. Take-Two told the publication that Sam’s role within the developer remains unchanged.
Polygon reports that Dan contributed writing and promotion for the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series of games. He also was a producer and writer for Bully and Max Payne 3. The publication also reports that this announcement comes two days before the expected earnings report from Take-Two Interactive.
Prior to founding Rockstar Games, Dan and Sam worked at BMG Interactive where Dan wrote trivia for the You Don’t Know Jack series of games, according to Vulture. After the company shut down in 1998, Sam asked Dan to work for Rockstar. Dan told the publication that prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto III, Take-Two was $100 million dollars in debt. Grand Theft Auto III turned out a profit of $300 million. Then Take-Two purchased Angel Studios and rebranded it as Rockstar San Diego. One of Angel Studio’s cancelled games, Red Dead Revolver, was published in 2004 and kicked off the Red Dead franchise. For Red Dead Redemption II, Dan would perform each of the roles in rough scripts for the game’s missions during meetings.
Grand Theft Auto V is the most popular entertainment product of all time with nearly 100 million copies sold and $6 billion in revenue, according to Vulture. Dan was the lead writer for GTA V.
“Something like this takes a lot of work and effort, so you’d better be passionate about it,” said Dan in a 2013 interview with The Guardian. “We take every game release seriously. [For GTA V] we had to liven it up and make our lives unpleasant again.”
Rockstar Games has been widely criticized for overworking its developers. Jason Schreier of Kotaku writes that both Dan and Sam Houser are known for rebooting, overhauling and discarding large chunks of their games. The changes they and other directors made to games like Red Dead Redemption II have contributed to a culture of crunch at the studio, where developers worked for overtime for months or even years. Dan even described to Vulture about working “100-hour weeks” to get Red Dead Redemption II released, though he later clarified to Kotaku that he was only referring to the writing team and only for a period of three weeks.