Grand Theft Auto is one of the most iconic video game series ever produced, and part of its status comes from its name. The name is certainly simple but lets players know exactly what they’re in for when they boot up the games. But where did this iconic name come from? To tell that story, we have to start all the way at the beginning before Grand Theft Auto was Grand Theft Auto.
The Origin of ‘Grand Theft Auto’s’ Name
Back in 1995, a young upstart developer named DMA Design Limited was working on a top-down car racing game that focused on crashes and running over pedestrians. This game was originally titled Race’n’Chase, and put the onus on racing other drivers around a city. Racers could leave their vehicles and steal others to continue racing, which would have sent police to their location.
Over time, the game’s goal shifted from racing to completing jobs and causing chaos. However, the idea of navigating the map with a stolen vehicle remained. The team wanted a name that would not only capture the essence of criminal activities within the game but also create intrigue and controversy.
Grand Theft Auto was a perfect fit. It reflected the game’s criminal elements while also giving it an edge. From then on, the name Grand Theft Auto became synonymous with high-quality, open-world criminal gameplay.
For the uninitiated, “grand theft auto” is a legal term used in the United States to refer to the act of stealing a motor vehicle. The crime typically encompasses the theft of high-value or luxury vehicles, further emphasizing the themes of wealth that are often central to GTA’s narrative. Convictions are often accompanied by years of jail time along with fines that can total above $10,000.
Impact and Controversy
While the name has undoubtedly contributed to the success of the franchise, it has also been a source of controversy. Parental and religious groups have criticized the games for glamorizing criminal behavior and violence. However, pundits argue that the games serve as a form of legitimate social commentary and satirization of the real world.
Rockstar often leans into the controversy when marketing GTA titles — and it clearly hasn’t damaged the brand. Grand Theft Auto games have sold over 400 million units worldwide and amassed billions of dollars in revenue. GTA V allegedly sold 180 million units and earned $7.7 billion in revenue by itself.
Over the past two decades, Grand Theft Auto is more than just a name. It’s an entire brand that represents some of the very best video games have to offer. The name was carefully chosen to reflect the criminal and rebellious themes of the series. It has played a significant role in GTA‘s immense popularity and cultural impact. Both its name and its acronym roll off the tongue so easily and have made the series so popular. Grand Theft Auto remains a symbol of video game innovation and provocation, reminding us that sometimes, it’s all in the name.