The studio’s creative lead of more than 20 years will leave Rockstar this March, Take-Two confirmed on Tuesday in an announcement that caused its stock price to drop almost seven percent.
Houser has been a key figure behind the company’s most successful titles, having written or co-written almost all of the games in the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series. The series’ latest two games alone have sold 150 million copies.
Speaking in an earnings call on Thursday, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick highlighted the fact that Dan’s brother Sam Houser is still president of Rockstar and insisted that the label has “never been stronger.”
“Dan Houser had been on extended leave since early spring 2019,” he said. “The company has been led since its founding by Sam Houser, who is president of the company, and it’s an extraordinary team effort. Sam’s a great player coach.
“The results at Rockstar Games continue to be extraordinary, with the launch of new content for both Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online. It’s amazingly gratifying to see Grand Theft Auto V sell 120 million units and Red Dead Redemption 2 up to 29 million units with the launch on PC and Stadia.”
He added: “The label has really never been stronger. We’re incredibly optimistic and excited. At the same time we’re grateful to Dan for his contributions and we wish him well.”
Asked how Houser’s departure might affect the stability of Rockstar, Zelnick again pointed to Sam Houser, who he claimed was “highly committed” to the company.
“In terms of team stability, Sam Houser is president of Rockstar Games. He founded Rockstar Games, he’s a great player coach and he leads a team of thousands of people every day who are trying to make the most extraordinary entertainment experiences known to man. Those are their goals and more often than not they achieve or even exceed those goals, which is just amazing.”
He added: “I don’t typically speak for other people, but I confidently can speak and say that Sam is highly committed to the organisation and he 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.
“Culturally, I’ve only seen ongoing improvements at Rockstar, frankly. I’ve only seen growth, engagement and innovation.”
Zelnick continued: “Rockstar Games set a standard for always trying to improve the quality of its operations, the quality of the way they work and the quality of their culture. I frankly couldn’t be more proud of how effectively that label is operating.”
The CEO finished by insisting that “things couldn’t be better” at Rockstar. “And to be very specific: no, we don’t expect other departures.”