June 8, 2006 9:45 AM PDT

'Grand Theft Auto' makers settle with FTC

The makers of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" reached a settlement Thursday with the Federal Trade Commission after the government agency spent months investigating sexually themed content that was hidden in the popular video game.

At the request of several members of Congress, including New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, the FTC's department of consumer protection had been looking into the so-called "Hot Coffee" scandal, in which easily downloadable software could be used to unlock adult content from the mature-rated game, one of the best-selling of 2004 and 2005 for the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles.

Games with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's "M," or mature, rating are intended for consumers aged 17 and up, while the "Grand Theft Auto" content that could be unlocked was determined by the ESRB to require an "Adults Only," or "AO" rating.

When the scandal broke in July 2005, the game's publishers, New York-based Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games, agreed to change the rating to AO and subsequently incurred $24.5 million in costs due to returns of the game, the FTC said in a statement.

Under the terms of Thursday's settlement with the FTC, Take-Two and Rockstar Games agreed to "clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement...content relevant to the rating." Any violations would mean hefty fines.

In other words, the publishers agreed to never again misrepresent the content in its games in order to seek a lower age-appropriate rating.

"Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, said in the Thursday statement. "We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers. This is a matter of serious concern to the (FTC), and if they violate this order, they can be heavily fined."

Under the consent agreement, the statement said, the publishers also agreed to create and maintain a "comprehensive system reasonably designed to ensure that all content in an electronic game is considered and reviewed in preparing submissions to a rating authority."

Take-Two and Rockstar would incur fines of $11,000 per violation if they were found to be hiding adult content in future games, according to the agreement.

FTC Commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the consent agreement. The public will have 30 days to comment on its terms, after which the agency will vote whether to make it final.

Take-Two could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last month, Take-Two had another one of its games, "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," rerated by the ESRB. The ratings board changed the rating from "Teen" to "Mature" after it determined that Take-Two played down the level of violence in the game and the inclusion of a topless woman accessible with a third-party modification like "Hot Coffee."

Ironically, the announcement of the agreement came on the same day that the first Sex in Video Games conference was set to begin, in San Francisco.

See more CNET content tagged:
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto, agreement, publisher

22 comments

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GTA San Andreas
I only agree as far as the rating goes.As far as Im concerned,it should be up to the Parents responsability,NOT the govt. to say what an American can/cant buy.
Posted by RossLV (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I 2nd that
It definitley should be the parents responsibility.
However, that isn't working.. Why?
Either parents are clueless or they don't care.
Most are probably clueless as to what their kids are doing, so now someone else has to take the parental job - Uncle Sam.
Posted by tagalex (9 comments )
Link Flag
Agreed
More BS from stupid politicians and bureaucrats...and we all get to pay for it.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Another show of government power
the gov't is very subtly removing our freedoms.
Posted by Xat Nam (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not very subtle really
Every week it seems there is something else in the news about government snooping or curtailing some action or other. People just aren't paying enough attention. It's always someone else's problem.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
freedom yes, but informed freedom
I don't believe the intent is to take away freedom. The intent is to have the software makers be honest and up-front about what is in the game, so that parents of children can make better decisions about what to purchase for their kids. Parents are simply trying to protect their children from psychological and emotional harm.

I believe you should be able to experience whatever you want in your video games. But viewing porn, violence, etc at young age has been proven to have adverse affects such as hostile attitudes and behavior.
Posted by BengalTigger (36 comments )
Link Flag
It is useless to comment here...
Contact the government... over and over again if necessary. This is happening because the ones that want to harm the video game industry is the loudest. Become louder... email your representative or go here to find out how...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.videogamevoters.org/" target="_newWindow">http://www.videogamevoters.org/</a>
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can contact the FTC
From their website at (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/06/grandtheftauto.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/06/grandtheftauto.htm</a>):

"Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions."

Stop complaining here where no one cares. Complain in the process to change the process.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
it's all about $$
You think the restrictions are being imposed because people want to harm the video game industry? What do you suppose the video industry is concerned with here; A.) They think it wise and important to supply young children with sex &#38; violence based gamming, or B.) They want to make lots of money.
And which of these ideals are you siding up with?
Posted by tagalex (9 comments )
Link Flag
GTA San Andres
The hot coffee part was an illegal mod to crack what was there. You can't open hot coffee on the PS2 without a cheat setup like game shark.
Posted by esteron (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stupid hypocrites
It is amazing that what they are up in arms about is sexual content, in a game where you can perform home invasions, kill cops, hookers, carjack, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love the GTA series and think the M rating is appropriate - there is no difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old - the whole AO thing is ridiculous. This fixation on sex while overlooking violent content is bizarre - I would much rather a child be exposed to sex than graphic violence. This is such a non-issue and a waste of taxpayer money and time that could be spent pursuing issues that actually matter.
Posted by cristianodiaz (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vote Collecting
That is basically what this is. awww hillary cares about my kids....lol
Posted by konflicted357 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Umm..
Umm.. dont they know you can change the age appropriateness in nearly any 3d application simply by altering the alpha of certain textures to make the avatars clothing transparent?

This is setting a dangerous precedent where publishers can be held responsible for any and all third party modifications to a program that may change the ESRB rating.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have played The Grant Theft Auto and i have a really good idea.
It would be an awsome idea to be able
'to name your person and create you own guy.
Also be able to get any job you want and
do anything you want and Adam Sandler
should be the main characters voice and
it takes place in New York and you should
be able to have the choice to be in a gang
a mafia or a biker gang.
thank you and i hope ive given
you some good ideas for a next Grant Theft Auto game.
One of my friends actually came up with the idea.
SO i hope it helps..
THANK YOU..
PEACE
Posted by dat_lil_mamii_jodybaby93 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I am the friend of the person who wrote all of this and i was just wondering if you could contact me on here instead of the girl above me.
whos name is dat_lil_mamii_jodybaby12
Im the one who told her to contact GTA about this.
ANd i hope my ideas will be put in one of the GTA games..
thank you.
Me and my cousin were talking about our favorite game and thought of some REALLY good ideas for a next GTA..
THANK YOU.
our names WIlliam Pond.
ANd my cousins name is also WIlliam also..
THANK YOU..
Posted by willypond96 (1 comment )
Link Flag
 

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