ESRB Concludes Investigation Into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; Revokes M (Mature) Rating

July 20, 2005

(July 20th, 2005)

(NEW YORK) – The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) today announced the findings of its investigation into the “Hot Coffee” modification for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and its immediate revocation of the game’s M (Mature 17+) rating. The game’s publisher, Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., will immediately advise retailers to cease all sales of the game until corrective actions, as mandated by the ESRB, can be taken.

“After a thorough investigation, we have concluded that sexually explicit material exists in a fully rendered, unmodified form on the final discs of all three platform versions of the game (i.e., PC CD-ROM, Xbox and PS2),” said Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB. “However, the material was programmed by Rockstar to be inaccessible to the player and they have stated that it was never intended to be made accessible. The material can only be accessed by downloading a software patch, created by an independent third party without Rockstar’s permission, which is now freely available on the internet and through console accessories. Considering the existence of the undisclosed and highly pertinent content on the final discs, compounded by the broad distribution of the third party modification, the credibility and utility of the initial ESRB rating has been seriously undermined.”

In addition to directing retailers to cease all sales of the game, Rockstar has agreed to take the following ESRB-mandated corrective actions:

  • Offer retailers the option of either re-stickering existing inventory with an AO (Adults Only 18+) rating or exchanging all unsold inventory for new versions of the game that has the hidden content removed and the original M rating intact.
  • Make a downloadable patch available to all consumers who have previously purchased the PC version of the game, which will make the modification that unlocks the material inoperable.

Going forward, the ESRB will now require all game publishers to submit any pertinent content shipped in final product even if is not intended to ever be accessed during game play or remove it from the final disc. Furthermore, the ESRB calls on the computer and video game industry to proactively protect their games from illegal modifications by third parties, particularly when they serve to undermine the accuracy of the rating.

“The integrity of the ESRB rating system rests upon its accuracy and reliability and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect the public’s trust in it. Independent research confirms that the overwhelming majority of consumers find ESRB ratings to be an effective tool to help make informed purchase decisions,” continued Ms. Vance. “We encourage every parent to always check the ratings before bringing games home for their families and to actively monitor what their children play.”