Rockstar Games co-founder and writer of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2, Dan Houser, is leaving the company in March. He leaves the company following an extended break that began in Spring 2019, and his departure was announced unceremoniously to say the least. Take-Two confirmed his departure in a four-sentence statement that was filed with a US regulatory body.
Take-Two has now shared a little more insight around Houser’s departure and what it means for Rockstar going forward. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick commented on the matter on an earnings call, but he only very briefly mentioned Dan Houser, and instead focused his comments on his brother Sam and the successes of Rockstar Games as a company.
“Dan Houser had been on an extended leave since early spring 2019,” Zelnick said, adding that he is grateful to Dan for his contributions and that he wishes him well going forward.
Houser, who is known to be a private person, has not made any public comment on his forthcoming departure from Rockstar.
Zelnick also pointed out that Rockstar has been led since the very beginning by Sam Houser, who remains president of the company. “It’s an extraordinary team effort and Sam is a great player-coach,” Zelnick said.
Zelnick went on to say that Rockstar Games has “never been stronger” following the huge successes of GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2, which have combined to sell 150 million copies. Their online modes are still going strong as well, with microtransaction spending in GTA Online recently posted huge revenue gains.
Later in the call, Zelnick spoke more about his working relationship with Sam Houser and how Rockstar’s culture has been improving of late. This follows reports of extended crunch at the company in the lead-up to the release of Red Dead Redemption 2.
“I don’t typically speak for other people but I confidently can speak and say that Sam is highly committed to the organization. Sam and I work very closely together; it’s an enormous pleasure to be able to be in business with Sam and the entire team at Rockstar,” he said. “Culturally, I’ve only seen ongoing improvement at Rockstar, frankly. I’ve only seen growth and engagement and innovation.”
“Rockstar Games sets a standard for always trying to improve its operations and how it works and the culture,” he added. “I frankly couldn’t be more proud of how that label is operating.”
Zelnick went on to say that he does not anticipate more staff departures following Dan Houser’s exit. People stay at Rockstar–and Take-Two’s other labels–because they are taken care of and rewarded for their work, he said. Take-Two pays its employees bonuses as part of what it labels “internal royalties.” For the three-month period ended December 31, Take-Two paid out $166.4 million in such bonuses.
“Things couldn’t be better [at Rockstar],” Zelnick said. “And to be very specific, no, we certainly don’t expect other departures. As an organization as a whole, we have an extraordinarily low rate of attrition, vastly lower than the industry average. I think that’s because we offer a great place to work at all of our labels and at Take-Two corporate as well. To the extent that we fall short, we always aim to do better.”
The share price of Take-Two dropped after the company announced Dan Houser’s departure, so it’s expected that Zelnick would try to assuage fears that the company may be rudderless without their former head writer and creative executive.
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