Following the raising of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas's rating
from Mature to Adults Only following the 'Hot Coffee' mod controversy, a number of retailers have announced that they will remove the title from their shelves rather than continue selling the game with an Adults Only sticker added.
Several major retail companies have released their own press releases explaining the reasoning for their decisions, which is generally similar from case to case. "As soon as the company learned about the ESRB action, we started the process to stop the sale of this title," said Circuit City's Phil Schoonover. Best Buy's statement maintained: "Our decision reflects the commitment we have to our customers to help them make informed decisions. Best Buy is a strong proponent of the ESRB ratings system."
All member stores of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, which includes Blockbuster, GameFly, GameCrazy, KB Toys, Target, Tower Records, Toys R Us, and Wal-Mart, have removed the game. As IEMA president Hal Halpin explained, "Though not a policy, IEMA members generally do not carry AO-rated games any differently than we do not carry X-rated videos or DVDs, thus it is likely that our members will be removing all copies of the current version and re-stocking with the updated version."
Finally, GameStop Corp., of which Electronics Boutique and GameStop.com are subsidiaries, announced its decision to also pull the game. "It is GameStop's corporate policy not to sell video games that have an ESRB rating of Adults Only," read the company's statement. "GameStop believes that the ESRB rating system is an effective method used to inform consumers about the content in video games and will continue to support the ESRB's efforts."
Though the withdrawal will undoubtedly have some effect on Take-Two Interactive's bottom line for the financial quarter and year, the extreme popularity of the game -- which has been on shelves for PlayStation 2 since October of 2004 -- means that several million copies are already in circulation in consumer homes. Furthermore, Rockstar Games is working on removing the offending content from future pressings, and most retailers intend to restock when the game is re-edited and rated M again.