Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

'GTA' Game Rating Changed to Adults-Only

Filed under
Gaming

The video game industry on Wednesday changed to adults-only the rating of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," a best-selling game in which explicit sexual content can be unlocked with an Internet download.

The decision followed intense pressure from politicians and media watch groups, and retailers reacted swiftly - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. said they would immediately pull all copies from their store shelves nationwide.

The game's producer, Rockstar Games, said it stopped making the current version and would provide new labels to any retailer willing to keep selling the games, which had been rated "M" for mature. The company also will offer a downloadable patch to fix the sex issue in PC versions, and is working on a new, more secure version, to be rated "M."

Rockstar's parent company, New York-based Take Two Interactive Software Inc., also admitted for the first time that the sex scenes had been built into the retail version of that game - not just the PC version but also those written for XBox and Playstation2 consoles.

Company officials had previously suggested that a modification created by outsiders added the scenes.

Take-Two spokesman Jim Ankner acknowledged in an Associated Press interview that the questioned scenes were created by Rockstar programmers. "The editing and finalization of any game is a complicated task and it's not uncommon for unused and unfinished content to remain on the disc," he said.

In a statement, the president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board said the sex scenes were programmed by Rockstar "to be inaccessible to the player."

But ESRB chief Patricia Vance also acknowledged that the "credibility and utility" of the industry-run board's initial "M" rating had been "seriously undermined."

Many retailers sell "M" rated games, which "may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older," according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but won't sell "AO"-labeled games at all.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" was last year's top console game, selling more than 5.1 million copies in the U.S. after its October release, according to market analyst NPD Group. Xbox and PC versions were released last month.

Take-Two said net sales could drop by more than $50 million this quarter, and lowered its financial expectations for the year to set aside funds for returns of the games. Guidance was reduced to $1.05 to $1.12 per share on $1.26 billion to $1.31 billion in sales from a prior estimate of $1.40 to $1.47 per share and sales of $1.3 billion to $1.35 billion.

Shares of Take-Two rose 12 cents to close at $27.07 on the Nasdaq, but later dropped $1.81, or 6.7 percent, to $25.26 in after-hours activity after falling more than 11 percent when the decision was announced. The stock has traded between $19.26 and $29.60 over the past year.

The rating change is vindication for Patrick Wildenborg, the Dutch programmer who developed the "hot coffee" modification and made downloads freely available on the Internet. Wildenborg had told the AP that his "mod" merely allowed the user to gain access to pre-existing content in game.

Such "mods" are wildly popular among the hardcore gaming community, and have been shown to extend the retail longevity of games like "Half-Life," which is still sold years after its first release because of a popular "Counter-Strike" mod that allows for detailed counter-terrorist shoot'em-up action.

Take-Two president Paul Eibeler said in a statement that "the decision to re-rate a game based on an unauthorized third party modification presents a new challenge for parents, the interactive entertainment industry and anyone who distributes or consumes digital content."

The developments did little to appease Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, who applauded the ESRB investigation but remained disturbed that the sex content appeared on store shelves in the first place.

"Apparently the sexual material was embedded in the game. The company admitted that," Clinton said. "But the fact remains that the company gamed the ratings system."

Clinton has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, and said the ESRB must do more to police content.

"I think that the rating board has to be vigilant and really make sure that it's as thorough as it can be and not just take the game makers' word as to what's on there," Clinton said.

Best Buy echoed that, saying it hopes its decision to stop selling the game will "send a strong message to game developers encouraging full cooperation with the ESRB."

The Parents Television Council, one of several media watchdogs that have criticized Rockstar and the ESRB, called on the game publisher to voluntarily recall the game and offer refunds to purchasers. Instead, Rockstar has agreed to exchange unsold inventory with new, "M" rated versions that "have the hidden content removed," the ESRB said.

"I tip my cap to that first step of showing responsibility," said Tim Winter, the council's executive director. "Phase two needs to be absolutely getting to the bottom of this coding issue. How did it get into that game? How did it get past the ratings board?"

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

OSS in the Back End

  • Open Source NFV Part Four: Open Source MANO
    Defined in ETSI ISG NFV architecture, MANO (Management and Network Orchestration) is a layer — a combination of multiple functional entities — that manages and orchestrates the cloud infrastructure, resources and services. It is comprised of, mainly, three different entities — NFV Orchestrator, VNF Manager and Virtual Infrastructure Manager (VIM). The figure below highlights the MANO part of the ETSI NFV architecture.
  • After the hype: Where containers make sense for IT organizations
    Container software and its related technologies are on fire, winning the hearts and minds of thousands of developers and catching the attention of hundreds of enterprises, as evidenced by the huge number of attendees at this week’s DockerCon 2016 event. The big tech companies are going all in. Google, IBM, Microsoft and many others were out in full force at DockerCon, scrambling to demonstrate how they’re investing in and supporting containers. Recent surveys indicate that container adoption is surging, with legions of users reporting they’re ready to take the next step and move from testing to production. Such is the popularity of containers that SiliconANGLE founder and theCUBE host John Furrier was prompted to proclaim that, thanks to containers, “DevOps is now mainstream.” That will change the game for those who invest in containers while causing “a world of hurt” for those who have yet to adapt, Furrier said.
  • Is Apstra SDN? Same idea, different angle
    The company’s product, called Apstra Operating System (AOS), takes policies based on the enterprise’s intent and automatically translates them into settings on network devices from multiple vendors. When the IT department wants to add a new component to the data center, AOS is designed to figure out what needed changes would flow from that addition and carry them out. The distributed OS is vendor-agnostic. It will work with devices from Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Juniper Networks, Cumulus Networks, the Open Compute Project and others.
  • MapR Launches New Partner Program for Open Source Data Analytics
    Converged data vendor MapR has launched a new global partner program for resellers and distributors to leverage the company's integrated data storage, processing and analytics platform.
  • A Seamless Monitoring System for Apache Mesos Clusters
  • All Marathons Need a Runner. Introducing Pheidippides
    Activision Publishing, a computer games publisher, uses a Mesos-based platform to manage vast quantities of data collected from players to automate much of the gameplay behavior. To address a critical configuration management problem, James Humphrey and John Dennison built a rather elegant solution that puts all configurations in a single place, and named it Pheidippides.
  • New Tools and Techniques for Managing and Monitoring Mesos
    The platform includes a large number of tools including Logstash, Elasticsearch, InfluxDB, and Kibana.
  • BlueData Can Run Hadoop on AWS, Leave Data on Premises
    We've been watching the Big Data space pick up momentum this year, and Big Data as a Service is one of the most interesting new branches of this trend to follow. In a new development in this space, BlueData, provider of a leading Big-Data-as-a-Service software platform, has announced that the enterprise edition of its BlueData EPIC software will run on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other public clouds. Essentially, users can now run their cloud and computing applications and services in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) instance while keeping data on-premises, which is required for some companies in the European Union.

today's howtos

Industrial SBC builds on Raspberry Pi Compute Module

On Kickstarter, a “MyPi” industrial SBC using the RPi Compute Module offers a mini-PCIe slot, serial port, wide-range power, and modular expansion. You might wonder why in 2016 someone would introduce a sandwich-style single board computer built around the aging, ARM11 based COM version of the original Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. First off, there are still plenty of industrial applications that don’t need much CPU horsepower, and second, the Compute Module is still the only COM based on Raspberry Pi hardware, although the cheaper, somewhat COM-like Raspberry Pi Zero, which has the same 700MHz processor, comes close. Read more

DAISY: A Linux-compatible text format for the visually impaired

If you're blind or visually impaired like I am, you usually require various levels of hardware or software to do things that people who can see take for granted. One among these is specialized formats for reading print books: Braille (if you know how to read it) or specialized text formats such as DAISY. Read more