As part of the series chronicling the 20-year history of Xbox, the unfortunate decision was discussed by Kevin Bachus, head of Xbox 3rd party relations at the time. Featuring in the third episode and transcribed by Eurogamer, Bachus explains how Microsoft was approached by a “small game publisher”. The team explained that it wished to revisit one of its 2D PC games – i.e. the first two Grand Theft Auto games.
The documentary explained how a group of “newly important executives in Xbox…would review all the pitches”. Hearing the Rockstar pitch, they stated “I don’t think the game is going to be able to make the transition from 2D”.
Bachus explained that they felt the plan was “complicated”. He noted, “they didn’t really understand the interface”. Worse, Bachus said “they thought that it was based on a game that hadn’t been all that successful”.
The game was Grand Theft Auto 3, which became a timed exclusive for Sony‘s PlayStation 2. “It was the top-selling game of 2001,” noted Bachus. “It would have been the top-selling game of 2002 if it wasn’t beaten by its own sequel,” he concluded.
Grand Theft Auto 3 eventually came to the original Xbox in October 2003 – two years after it was released for the PlayStation 2.
Also in poor decision making, the documentary revealed that Microsoft’s handling of Lionhead Studios was a “mistake”.
To see more of Microsoft’s mistakes, the Power On: The Story of Xbox documentary is available to watch for free. Microsoft has described it as “the untold story of the people behind the box, glitches and all”.