The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 355 to 21 to support a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) inquiry into Take-Two Interactive/Rockstar Games, with the intention of discovering whether the company and its subsidiary attempted to deceive the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) over the sexual content of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
to avoid an 'Adults Only' rating.
Republican senator Fred Upton (R-Mich) commented with regard to the investigation: "If that company purposely hid that information or material to make a sham of the ratings, it is nothing less than deceptive advertising, and should be punished, in this case severely."
Take-Two has already seen the M for Mature age rating for the game upgraded to AO for Adults Only by the ESRB following a formal investigation, with most retail companies either taking the game off shelves
or re-positioning it away from other titles.
According to online reports, Rockstar is currently preparing re-printed versions of the game with the offending material completely removed, which will be permitted the ESRB's original M rating. However, estimates have already suggested that the issues could cost the company upwards of $50 million, despite the game having first been released last Christmas.
The FTC inquiry could also see additional financial penalties being imposed against the company, if it is found to be at fault. The outcome is obviously in doubt, but some online commentators are suggesting that the company’s assertion that the sex mini-games were primarily the work of 'hackers'
that "who have gone to significant trouble to alter scenes" has been proven to be misleading, if not technically untrue, as Action Replay codes have unlocked the offending in-game content simply by changing values in the PlayStation 2's memory, and without changing the contents of any files. However, this facet of the discussion does not necessarily impact on whether Rockstar "attempted to deceive the Entertainment Software Ratings Board" with regard to the initial rating, pre-discovery of 'Hot Coffee'.