Featured image: “Grand Theft Afternoon (P365-260)” by wizzer2801 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The video game industry is massive. Experts estimate the global games market is worth an incredible $159 billion. A significant slice of that gargantuan sum stems from the legendary publisher Rockstar Games. Is the New York City-based publisher the GOAT?

Rockstar Games was founded in December 1998, some 22-years ago when Take-Two acquired BGM Interactive for $14.2 million. That seems a snip considering how Rockstar Games has blossomed over the past two decades.

The company is famous in the industry for creating immersive worlds packed with minute details, which allow players to lose themselves for hours on end. You can become whoever you want to be in Rockstar’s virtual world. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a gangster, try your luck on sports betting sites, or even save the world from evil henchmen, Rockstar makes it possible from the comfort of your own home.

Rockstar’s First Taste of Controversy

Ask anyone to name a Rockstar Games franchise and 99.99% of them will give you the same answer: Grand Theft Auto. The GTA series is nothing short of huge. GTA V, the latest instalment, launched September 2013 and has sold over 135 million copies. Let’s put that into perspective. Our friends the United Kingdom has a population of approximately 66 million. That means Rockstar has sold enough copies of GTA V for every single resident of the UK to own two copies and still have three million copies spare!

Manhunt was one of Rockstar’s first hits back in the days of the original Xbox and PlayStation 2. Manhunt launched in November 2003 and it gave an insight into things to come.

The game was brutal, no doubt about it. Manhunt allowed you to commit vicious murders but it was the fact you, the player, had full control over what your character did. It was that gory that New Zealand banned it from sale and it became embroiled in a media frenzy in the UK when Manhunt was linked to a gruesome murder.

Rockstar launched Manhunt 2 in July 2007 but even more countries essentially banned it. The UK, Ireland and Italy refused to classify it, meaning it couldn’t be sold. It receives an Adults Only (AO) rating in the US, which effectively banned it. Rockstar heavily censored this sequel to allow its sale.

Rockstar Takes Over Max Payne Franchise

The Max Payne series is arguably one of the most underrated franchises ever launched. Rockstar jumped on board as the publisher for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and was in full control for Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 2 was positively received but its sales were rather underwhelming. Nobody knows why this is the case because some of the features were groundbreaking, including the “bullet time” mechanic during action scenes; think the famous bullet-dodging scene in The Matrix.

Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is one of the biggest in the world. Rockstar has shipped more than 280 million copies across the five titles and generated revenue in excess of $9 billion!

Everyone has a favourite GTA but it’s difficult to look past GTA V as Rockstar’s greatest achievement. It launched in September 2013 and is still one of the most-played video games today.

The attention to detail is incredible. From footprints left in the sand, to non-playable characters (NPC) having their own “lives” to being able to play the stock market and run businesses. GTA V is nothing short of incredible.

Rockstar also owns, creates, and publishes the Red Dead titles, which are essentially a Western-themed version of Grand Theft Auto.

Red Dead Revolver is long forgotten but only because the original Red Dead Redemption was so epic. Never before had the industry seen the Wild West in such detail or enjoyed such amazing storytelling.

The long-awaited sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, is a masterpiece. It has sold 34 million copies to date and won several awards including Game of the Year. Rockstar crossed the boundaries of art and video games with this title. If only Rockstar piled more resources into the game’s online element, which is lacking, it would be a 10/10 title. As things stand, it’s a solid 9.5/10!

Is Rockstar The GOAT?

Do you think Rockstar Games is the GOAT publisher? There are only a handful of other publishers who even come close to producing such epic, absorbing titles. The likes of Naughty Dog and CD Projekt Red are superb in their own right, but neither pushes the boundaries of technology and what is acceptable in a video game-like Rockstar.