Rockstar Presents Table Tennis
When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 arrived, people expected open world experts Rockstar Games to come blaring out of the gate with something truly next-gen. What they got was something surprising: a table tennis game.
Yes, that actually happened.
“Our mission brief at Rockstar has been clear to us from when we founded the company—to make titles with innovative game play about subject matters we were interested in, ” said Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser in a 2006 interview with . “We have always been a company that likes to take risks, and do things differently from everyone else. For us this does not just mean gangster films, or car chases or westerns (much as we still love them), but anything that we think is interesting and has not been successfully handled elsewhere in a videogame. From our perspective, table tennis fitted the bill perfectly.”
Rockstar was interested in what might happen if their new game engine, which would later go onto power Grand Theft Auto IV and other sprawling open worlds, was focused on a single idea. In this case, it was table tennis.
The studio tasked with building Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis—quite the name!—was Rockstar San Diego. Having worked on Smuggler’s Run and Midnight Club for PlayStation 2’s launch, Houser suspected San Diego was best suited for a game that early into the launch of new hardware. Table Tennis arrived a few months later than Xbox 360’s launch (March 23, 2006 vs. November 22, 2005.)
Though Rockstar had been more closely associated with PlayStation in years past, with the Grand Theft Auto games regularly launching first on Sony’s platforms, Table Tennis was an Xbox 360 exclusive. PlayStation 3 wouldn’t launch until later in 2006, though Rockstar ported the game to the Wii in 2007.
Another quirk? Table Tennis released at $40, slightly cheaper than other games. This was around the time the industry was slowly transitioning to $60 as the standard price point for a game, rather than the previous generation’s $50.
Rockstar wasn’t making a goofy game. This was Serious Business, with Houser hoping “to create a sports game with the intensity of a fighting game and the sense of speed and control that would make playing it a more intense and more visceral experience than has previously been possible with sports games.”