Microsoft could have had Grand Theft Auto III on Xbox first if a third-party publishing initiative called "The Star Chamber" hadn't turned down a Rockstar proposal, author Dean Takahashi claims in his new book, The Xbox 360 Uncloaked.
In an extract published on 1UP, Takahashi reports that under J Allard's direction, The Star Chamber - a group of game managers organised to evaluate game proposals sent to Microsoft - turned down a GTA III proposal, returning it with suggestions to "beef up" the game.
Rockstar went on to create the game exclusively for PlayStation 2, and it didn't appear on Xbox until much later - by which time the GTA brand was firmly associated with PS2. Further instalments launched first on the Sony format.
Takahashi said: "It wasn't Microsoft's kind of game, since it was a gritty crime game with foul language, abusive treatment of women, and cop killing. Microsoft had a corporate image to maintain and, like Electronic Arts, it avoided that category."
That's all in the past though - and Microsoft believes that the fact it'll have Grand Theft Auto IV on Xbox 360 on the same day it launches on PlayStation 3 could be a significant factor in the next-gen console war - as Peter Moore said on this site last week.
"When we do our research and ask PS2 owners why they're going to buy a PS3, they say it's because it's the only place they'll get Grand Theft Auto," he told us.
"So when you talk about neutralising that, that's very important to us. Then we say to gamers - and this flooded my inbox during the night - the only place you can play Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV is on an Xbox 360, and they've seen Gears of War and it blows the doors down for them."
Microsoft has yet to say anything about Takahashi's comments on GTA III and Xbox.