The hidden content in Take Two's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas earned the company far more publicity than it bargained for, along with exactly the wrong kind of attention from the government. Its competitors are not rejoicing over Take Two's troubles, because they know it could easily be one of them in the crosshairs. Indeed, the situation has raised concerns with the entire industry, the way it is regulated, and even the actions of its most diehard fans.
After Rockstar Games and its parent company Take Two Interactive finish wiping the, ahem, egg off their faces from the furor over the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, the video and computer game industry will not be the same. The firms expect to take a huge financial hit; Take Two said that its net sales could decrease by more than $50 million for the current quarter, due to reduced sales of the wildly popular game. And it’s all because of scenes that the game’s creators didn’t intend for its players to see in the first place.
For those who may have been too busy playing video games to keep up with the news, here is a quick recap. Rockstar Games released the fifth entry in its GTA series, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in October. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, charged for more than a decade to rate games as to their appropriate audience, gave it a “Mature” rating, which restricted the game to those 17 or older. An “M” is roughly equal to an “R” rating on a movie. With the graphic depictions of violence and scantily-clad women, there could be no question that it earned that rating; indeed, it probably added to its popularity.
Fast forward to June, when Patrick Wildenborg of Deventer, Netherlands, posted a hack for the game. Dubbed “Hot Coffee,” the hack allowed users to unlock hidden content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in which players could go to a “girlfriend’s” house and use their joysticks to control a character having sex. The game drew the ire of parents’ groups before, but this raised a firestorm of protest.
Take Two tried to take the coward’s way out at first. In a press release dated July 13, quoted by Wired and no longer available on the company’s website, Take Two claimed that “a determined group of hackers” went to “significant trouble to alter scenes in the official version of the game,” a process that involved “altering the game’s source code.” But by July 20, the ESRB found out the truth. The content was on the disks from the company to begin with, and found in all three versions of the game: the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation2 disks. The hack only revealed content that was already there. Given that, the ESRB changed the game’s rating to “Adults Only.”
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