Last year, a rather ugly discord between Leslie Benzies, former President of Rockstar North and producer on the GTA franchise, and Rockstar Games culminated in a lawsuit and the end of a long, long friendship. While news of the lawsuit happening was big at the time, the topic was sort of forgotten, with nary a follow-up. Now, Benzies has made it clear that he isn't out of the game.
It's true that with the justice system being what it is, this legal battle will likely stretch on for years to come. I'm no lawyer, but cases involving two wealthy parties and a whole lot of money tend to drag on as both sides are willing to put a lot on the line for victory. Add a personal grudge into the mix and there is no way they will settle.
Considering there are waiting times of months in between hearings, and with a case so complicated reaching back years, there is going to be a lot of them. In spite of being embroiled in such a legal battle, Benzies is clearly active and hasn't left the gaming industry behind. With the kind of experience he gained at Rockstar, it seems an obvious choice to stick to this medium.
Not only is Benzies sticking to gaming, but he's taking the industry by the storm. First reported by The Scotsman, the former Rockstar producer has incorporated not one, but several companies related to gaming, including what seems to be three different game development companies and another which will develop VR hardware.
Royal Circus Games Limited, Starship Group and Everywhere Game Limited are the names of the software development companies, while the hardware company is called VR-Chitect Limited. The first of the dev companies, Royal Circus, has already been submitted to the Intellectual Property Office identifying the development of console, PC and mobile games as its primary function.
As for what kinds of games Benzies will work on, we have no clue other than a cryptic trademark. Royal Circus Games has swiped the trademark for "Time for a New World" and the hashtag version, #TFANW. How a company can own a hashtag is beyond us, but IP laws are a confusing mess anyways.
Now, this trademark could be the name of an upcoming project for Benzies' new company, or it could even be a jab at Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive in that the "new world" is one when Benzies works in the gaming industry in a capacity unrelated to either company.
Taking jabs at one another through trademarks isn't new in this conflict, as around the time Benzies filed his lawsuit against Rockstar, they filed a trademark for "Judas". While the category for the trademark was indicated to be a video game, the connotation of the name is quite clear. You never know...
The background of the falling out between the two parties isn't clear though, as all we have to go on are the personal accounts of those involved and little else. Following the completion of GTA 5's development, Benzies was encouraged to take a sabbatical by the company. He eventually did so in September 2014. However, upon trying to return to work in 2016, he could not access his office and was escorted out of the company building by security.
Not soon after, his departure from the company was made official by a statement from Take-Two, which indicated that Benzies left the company of his own volition and that the parties parted amicably. The fact that this was followed by a lawsuit wherein Benzies accuses Rockstar of owing him over $150 million in royalties and that he was forced out of the company against his will puts this in a different light.
Benzies spearheaded the development of GTAs III through V, and many consider his influence to be the cause of the franchise's success. Grand Theft Auto truly exploded onto the mainstream gaming scene with the third main installment and has reigned supreme ever since. Some fans have expressed worry for the future of the franchise now that "The Benz" as he's affectionately referred to is no longer involved, and the direction GTA Online has taken since might be an indication of these fears being grounded.
We're eager to see what kinds of projects Benzies and his new teams will work on in the future, and how he'll make use of his experience gained during his years with Rockstar Games. The turnout of the legal battle will also be interesting to witness, though chances are we'll be playing GTA 6 by the time any resolution takes place.
Will you follow news of Benzies' projects now that he's back in the gaming industry?