The “Grand Theft Auto” series is just shy of its thirtieth birthday. The first “GTA” game came out in October 1997, and it looked nothing like the series does today.
In fact, it wasn’t until “Grand Theft Auto III” on PlayStation 2 that the series really exploded in popularity; that entry also set the standard by which all future “GTA” games would be measured. In many ways, “Grand Theft Auto V” — the latest entry in the long-running series — is the most recent iteration of a formula that began with “Grand Theft Auto III.”
And that’s not without reason: The same man was at the production helm for every “GTA” entry between 2001’s “GTA III” and “GTA V.” His name is Leslie Benzies, and he’s a Scottish game designer.
Benzies is no longer employed by Rockstar Games (the company behind the “GTA” series) or its parent company (Take-Two Interactive). His employment ended at Rockstar, effectively, in September 2014. According to a lawsuit Benzies filed against Rockstar and Take-Two in April 2016, Benzies claims he was was “enticed by Rockstar” to take a sabbatical starting in September 2014. A little over a year later, in January 2016, Rockstar officially announced that Benzies was no longer with the company.
What happened in the interim depends on who you ask. It’s a bit of a he said/she said — here’s what we know:
- Benzies charges Rockstar with allegedly pushing him out, suing his former employer for $150 million in what he claims are unpaid royalties.
- According to Rockstar (via a Kotaku report in January 2016), Benzies “decided not to return to work for the company” at some point during his sabbatical.
- According to Benzies’ lawyers, Benzies was terminated. “When attempting to resume his duties upon conclusion of his sabbatical on April 1, 2015, Mr. Benzies found himself unable to enter the Rockstar North office because his facilities access device had been deactivated,” a statement from Christopher Bakes, Partner at Locke Lord LLP reads. “After being let inside by building security, Mr. Benzies was then ordered to leave by the Rockstar North office manager without reason.”
Regardless, Benzies isn’t waiting for his lawsuit to play out — he’s getting back into the game industry on his own accord, having just registered several companies.
As The Scotsman noticed, Benzies registered a handful of different companies starting in January 2016 — soon after Rockstar Games confirmed that Benzies was no longer an employee. Those range from straightforward video game development studios (“Royal Circus Games Limited,” “Everywhere Game Limited”) to more hardware-focused stuff (“VR-Chitect Limited”) — you can see the full listing of companies here on the UK’s business registration site.
Of the several companies Benzies registered, only Benzies and one other employee are listed on each filing — a man named Christian Poziemski, who appears to be a financial adviser. Whether or not these companies are anything more than placeholder registrations is another question altogether. Given Benzies’ prolific history in game development, we expect this is more than a just-in-case measure.
As for the lawsuit, Rockstar and its parent company Take-Two Interactive are refuting Benzies’ claims, as well as counter-suing.