Rockstar co-founder and Creative Vice President Dan Houser will be leaving the company in March “after an extended break beginning in spring of 2019,” according to a document filed with the SEC by Rockstar parent Take Two Tuesday evening. Take Two stock is down more than 4 percent in early trading following the news, dipping to its lowest level since December 9.
“We are extremely grateful for his contributions,” Take Two wrote in the filing. “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.”
Houser has been instrumental in creating Rockstar’s wry, satirical voice over the past two decades, serving as the writer or co-writer for most of the company’s best-selling titles, including the Grand Theft Auto series. Houser’s brother Sam, who co-founded the company with Dan in 1998 and serves as executive producer on most of Rockstar’s products, will continue to work at Rockstar, and his role at the company “remains unchanged,” according to a statement Take Two issued in the wake of the news.
Despite (or perhaps because of) their lucrative positions heading one of the most popular developers in the game industry, the Houser brothers generally remain reclusive from press attention. In a rare 2008 interview with the Telegraph, Dan Houser highlighted the freedom he felt writing in a largely “uncodified” medium like video games. “There’s no accepted way of doing anything, so that gives us enormous pleasure because we can make it up as we go along,” he said at the time. “Movies and TV and books have become so structured in the way they have to approach things. Not working in that environment gives us enormous freedom. I’d rather keep the freedom and not have the respect.”
The Houser brothers drew controversy in 2018 after an interview with Vulture where they casually mentioned the “100-hour weeks” Rockstar employees were enduring to get Grand Theft Auto V out the door. The interview sparked a renewed industry-wide discussion over excessive “crunch time” in video game development.
Sam Houser was portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe in a 2015 BBC production dramatizing the development of the Grand Theft Auto series. That production drew sharp criticism from the company and a failed lawsuit to stop its production.
Houser’s move follows the 2016 departure of Leslie Benzies, the famed Grand Theft Auto producer who worked out of Edinburgh’s Rockstar North for 17 years.