Microsoft has made a few mistakes over the years when it comes to their Xbox consoles. In a recent episode of the Power On: The Story of Xbox documentary on Youtube, Xbox staff reveal how Rockstar pitched Grand Theft Auto III to Microsoft executives as an Xbox exclusive. They rejected the pitch because they didn’t believe Rockstar was capable of transforming the franchise from 2D to 3D. The result was GTA 3 came to be a timed PlayStation 2 exclusive.
The documentary explains how Microsoft was approached by a “small game publisher” who wanted to “dust off” one of the 2D games they’d done for PC and really invest in the franchise. The story continued:
These newly important executives in Xbox who would review all the pitches from publishers and developers, they said “I don’t think that game is going to be able to make the transition from 2D to 3D”. They felt that it was complicated, they didn’t really understand the user interface, they thought that it was based on a game that hadn’t been all that successful. To my surprise, it was rejected.
That game turned out to be GTA 3. Rockstar then turned to Sony and the game became a timed PlayStation 2 exclusive in 2001. GTA 3 did finally release on Xbox a year later as part of the Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It sold 14.5 million units and was the top selling game of 2001 in the US. It would have achieved that accolade the following year too had it not been beaten by its successor, GTA Vice City. Suffice to say Microsoft regrets the decision.
GTA 3 continues its success even today, recently releasing as part of the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. The game was also added to PlayStation Now on December 7, although it will only be available in the service until January 31, 2022.[Source: Power On: The Story of Xbox]