Rockstar Games confirms the exit of Rockstar North President Leslie Benzies, with the regional Grand Theft Auto developer set to continue game production in his absence.
Rockstar North’s studio boss, Leslie Benzies, producer on Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Max Payne 3, and each Grand Theft Auto release since the literal game-changing Grand Theft Auto 3 has officially left the company. The news of his leaving Rockstar comes via a statement from the studio to Kotaku, in which it describes Benzies as having been on a sabbatical since September 1, 2014, roughly a year after the Grand Theft Auto series’ most recent installment was finished.
Benzies became a part of the studio in 1998 when it was DMA Design (now Rockstar North), working as the lead programmer on the oddball Nintendo 64 and PlayStation platformer, Space Station Silicon Valley, which then led to him becoming an instrumental part of making the Grand Theft Auto franchise what it is today. Regarding his departure, Rockstar Games wrote:
“We can confirm that Leslie Benzies went on sabbatical on September 1, 2014 and has decided not to return to work for the company. We are very grateful for Leslie’s contributions to Rockstar over the last 15 years as we worked together to make some amazing games.
“Leslie helped us build an incredible team that will continue to create great experiences for our fans. Leslie will always be a friend to the company and of course we are going to miss him but we wish him the absolute best for the future.”
Now that Benzies has left Rockstar North, the Scotland-based studio is being helmed by long-time Rockstar developers Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson. As some GTA fans may be aware, both of the devs shared art direction duties on Grand Theft Auto 5, and have been credited with the title of art director on many other big releases from the company.
Of course, Rockstar Games’ announcement doesn’t share why Benzies left, and frankly, it doesn’t have to do so. After all, it makes sense for the former studio head to go out on top after the major success of GTA 5, as the most recent financial report for the game announced it has had 220 million units shipped thus far. Plus, Benzies has been with the studio for nearly 17 years straight, so it’s safe to say that the man has paid his dues, and is probably looking for a new challenge.
What’s next for the Grand Theft Auto series is also still up in the air. In the past, Benzies actually suggested the possibility of a future franchise release that makes each of the GTA cities connect, stringing them all together for one large, sweeping narrative. Nevertheless, that idea was shared with the public almost 3 years ago, and with Benzies gone, it may no longer be used. As of now, though, most fans are just waiting for Grand Theft Auto 5‘s story DLC.
At any rate, the Grand Theft Auto franchise will surely continue to be produced, as it’s not only one of the studio’s most profitable releases, but also critically acclaimed. Plus, with Rockstar Games saying it has “45 years” worth of ideas (shared from Benzies, himself), such a large time frame will undoubtedly have room for GTA.
The most recent iteration of the Grand Theft Auto franchise is Grand Theft Auto 5, and it’s available for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.