[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that a Take-Two Interactive spokesman told the Associated Press that, in fact, the sex scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were added by Rockstar programmers. A spokesperson from the ESRB, according to the AP, said that the scenes were not designed to be accessible by players however.]
The investigation by the Entertainment Software Rating Board into a nude sex scene exposed by a hack in Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has concluded, the company announced today. The results have brought a change in rating to the current version, termination of manufacturing of the current version and a downloadable patch to prevent the modification which caused the controversy around an already controversial game to surface.
For those who haven’t been following, the â€œhot coffeeâ€ modification, which can be openly found and downloaded off the Internet, allows Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to be hacked. The sexual scenes which come as a result are at the heart of the controversy and have drawn fire from multiple camps, with calls for tighter regulation of the video gaming industry. Take-Two acknowledged to the Associated Press that the scenes were in fact added by programmers but not designed to be accessible to the general public. This is on top of a press release they issued on the ESRB investigation and subsequent actions.
The ESRB has gone ahead and assigned an â€œAdults Only 18+â€ rating (AO) to the current hackable version of the game sitting on store shelves. Take-Two said they will offer AO labels to those retailers which choose to continue stocking it.
Take-Two and Rockstar said they would immediately cease producing the hacked version and will begin working on a new one to be available during Take-Two’s fourth fiscal quarter. It will have “enhanced security” to prevent this from happening again. The new version, once released, will have the original â€œMature 17+â€ rating (M).
Plans are also in the works to release a downloadable patch to secure the current PC hackable version. The video game companies called upon parent groups and political leaders to assist in the distribution of this patch.
In a sign that the negative publicity around this has impacted their bottom line, Take-Two said they would be lowering their third quarter fiscal numbers as well as their overall fiscal year estimates. They are also exploring legal options as it relates to those who have created tools to modify the game.
“Take-Two and Rockstar Games have always worked to keep mature-themed video game content out of the hands of children and we will continue to work closely with the ESRB and community leaders to improve and better promote a reliable rating system to help consumers make informed choices about which video games are appropriate for each individual,” said Paul Eibeler, Take-Two’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The ESRB’s 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. Rockstar Games is pleased that the investigation is now settled and they look forward to returning their focus to making innovative and groundbreaking video games for a mature audience.”