Following yesterday's re-rating of the Bethesda-developed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from T (Teen) to M (Mature) by the ESRB, Bethesda has issued an official statement regarding the decision.
The company first noted that it, rather than publisher Take-Two, handled the ESRB ratings process for the game, continuing: "Bethesda will promptly implement the ratings change that the ESRB has ordered for Oblivion. We will not contest the ESRB's decision to re-rate the game as Mature, nor will we change the game's content to keep a Teen rating. We believe that this critically acclaimed game is not typical of Mature rated titles, and does not present the central themes of violence that are common to those products."
Bethesda noted that it will work with its co-publisher to place new "M" rating stickers on Oblivion packaging now at retail and in warehouses, and will reflect the change in rating on newly manufactured product. No product recall is being directed by the company (though presumably, some retailers may remove the game briefly to wait for the correct sticker updates.)
Answering the ESRB's charges against the game, Bethesda commented: "There is no nudity in Oblivion without a third party modification. In the PC version of the game only - this doesn't apply to the Xbox 360 version - some modders have used a third party tool to hack into and modify an art archive file to make it possible to create a mesh for a partially nude (topless) female that they add into the game." This comment does make it clear, however, that a topless texture map was included within the shipping game.
The company continued: "Bethesda didn't create a game with nudity and does not intend that nudity appear in Oblivion. There is no nude female character in a section of the game that can be "unlocked." Bethesda can not control tampering with Oblivion by third parties. Bethesda is taking steps to ensure that modders can not continue to hack into Oblivion's art archives to create partially nude figures."
Regarding the ESRB's other charge that the in-game violence was more excessive than previously believed, Bethesda commented: "With regard to violence, Bethesda advised the ESRB during the ratings process that violence and blood effects were "frequent" in the game - checking the box on the form that is the maximum warning. We further advised that the game contained occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore. We gave accurate answers and descriptions about the type and frequency of violence that appears in the game. We submitted a 60-page document listing the explicit language, acts, and scenes in the game. Oblivion packaging already contains warnings for "Violence" and "Blood and Gore.""