Wednesday, July 20, 2005

ESRB Slaps GTA: San Andreas

Here are some excerpts from Take Two's press release:
-- ESRB assigns "Adults Only 18+" (AO) rating for current version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas due to unauthorized third party "Hot Coffee" modification
-- Rockstar Games to cease manufacture of current version of title and offer a downloadable patch to prevent modification of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for PC
-- Company lowers third quarter and fiscal year guidance to reflect the expected negative impact on the title's retail performance

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) announced today that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on all platforms from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+" (AO) because of the so-called "hot coffee mod," an unauthorized third party modification that alters the retail version of the game. Take-Two cooperated fully with the ESRB's investigation.

Rockstar Games has ceased manufacturing of the current version of the title and will begin working on a version of the game with enhanced security to prevent the "hot coffee" modifications. This version will retain the original ESRB M-rating and is expected to be available during the Company's fourth fiscal quarter. Rockstar Games will be providing AO labels for retailers who wish to continue to sell the current version of the title.

As a result of the re-rating of the game, Take-Two is lowering guidance for the third fiscal quarter ending July 31, 2005 to $160 to $170 million in net sales and a net loss per share of $(0.40) to $(0.45) to provide reserves for the value of the title's current North American retail inventory. Accordingly, guidance for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2005 is also being lowered to $1.26 to $1.31 billion in net sales and $1.05 to $1.12 in diluted earnings per share.

Take-Two is down nearly seven percent in after hours trading.

Not surprisingly, Take-Two is still in denial. Saying that they'll release a new version with "enhanced security" to "prevent" the hot coffee mod is just idiotic. Hey, how about just REMOVING THE CODE, you dumb asses? They still want to make it sound like this is somehow the modder's fault, instead of them not only leaving the code on the disc, but making it possible to unlock it on the PS2 version with no "mod" necessary.

This is a pretty dramatic move by the ESRB, but it's not totally surprising. I don't think anyone is very amped up about defending these guys. They've lied from day one about this mod, they got caught, and they're getting what they deserve. And they should also be fined for concealing content from the ESRB when the game was initially rated, if that's possible.

Hubris usually ends badly.

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