It doesn't take much for a game to warrant a big-screen adaptation these days, as evidenced by such produced and proposed films as Painkiller, Bloodrayne, and Jagged Alliance. So with deals in place for so many gaming properties, why hasn't there been more speculation about a movie for one of the industry's most successful--and cinematic--properties, Grand Theft Auto?
It turns out the GTA creators at Rockstar Games simply aren't interested in turning their signature series into a movie. Rockstar cofounder Dan Houser gave Variety an extended interview that touched on a slew of topics, including the noticeable absence of a cinematic GTA adaptation. The reason came up in an explanation of how cautious the company is about milking its cash cow.
"We try and protect it," Houser said. "The intellectual property is the main asset in the company. That's why GTA is still relevant 10 years later. We haven't put one out every year. We haven't fleeced it. And we haven't put it on 50 different formats. We're not per se against moving properties between different media but for GTA it just seems so perfect as a game. You lose a lot of what makes it what it is if you move it into being, say, a movie. It just never seemed interesting creatively."
That might be because Houser already thinks his game makes for a perfectly good movie in its current form. In addressing the controversy surrounding the series, Houser said it wouldn't exist if Grand Theft Auto weren't a product of the gaming medium.
"If this was a movie or TV show and was the best in its field, you'd give it loads of awards and put those awards shows on television," Houser said. "I genuinely don't aspire to that, but I do aspire to not being called an a****** for doing the same thing in a videogame. So what you're really saying is, 'It's not the content, it's the medium.' You've proven that by your actions in other areas. So what is it about the medium you don't like? Because maybe we should challenge those ideas. It's not what you think it is to a lot of people. To us, it's way of experimenting with non-linear interactive storylines."
Houser also talked about ongoing boardroom intrigue at Take-Two Interactive, most recently coming in the form of a hostile takeover bid from Electronic Arts. He emphasized that such drama is nothing new for the publisher, but Rockstar has pressed on regardless.
"There have been so many CEOs since I worked here," Houser said. "Some were fantastic and some not so. But it never stopped us and I don't think it's going to. I'm so used to it I can't imagine any other environment. ... The one thing that whoever is in charge of Take-Two has been cool about is understanding that we do a good job of running Rockstar."
That trust from management was tested last year when Rockstar delayed Grand Theft Auto IV from an October 16, 2007 release date that had been announced more than a year earlier. Houser said if the game winds up having been a success a year from now, nobody will care that it was late in arriving.
"It will seem irrelevant," Houser said of the delay. "This franchise is so big that it doesn't need a Christmas release to do well... Christmas has always been big and it's always going to be, but it's gotten SO [emphasis in original] focused in videogames. I think for the next stage of its maturity as a business it needs to move out anyway. It's interesting to see what's hopefully going to be the biggest release this year not going at Christmas."