Leslie Benzies, a long-time producer of the GTA series has left the Scottish studio Rockstar North. As reported by Kotaku, Benzies had been on a 17 month sabbatical that began after releasing Grand Theft Auto V and has decided not to return.
Leslie Benzies joined the developer back when it was known as DMA Designs. He was a team lead on the N64 game Space Station Silicon Valley. DMA was eventually purchased by Rockstar and renamed to Rockstar North. He then moved onto have a producer role for Grand Theft Auto III, he had this role for pretty much every Grand Theft Auto from then on.
Benzies had been on sabbatical for the last 17 months, with his decision not to return, Rockstar have given a statement to Kotaku which reads:
“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.”
Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson, both 19 year Rockstar veterans, will take over the management roles at the Edinburgh based studio.
In 2014 Leslie Benzies along side Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser, were inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame. He and Sam Houser were also both awarded a BAFTA Special Award for their contribution to the video game industry in 2005.
As well as Grand Theft auto Benzies was also a producer for L.A. Noire and Red Dead Redemption, and was President at Rockstar North.
It’s hard to gauge how big an impact Benzies leaving the studio will have as Rockstar tend to keep its inner working comparatively secretive when put alongside other developers. However he had been there since 1999 and held the position of President at the studio making it look like a huge loss for Rockstar. Benzies team in Scotland have been at the forefront of pushing the games industry forward all we can hope for is that they continue to do so even after his departure.
Were you aware of Leslie Benzies and his position at Rockstar North? How much do you think his departure will effect the GTA series going forward?