I'm sure most of you have heard the news by now that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been re-rated as an AO (Adults Only) game thanks to the "hot coffee" debacle. There's a further story about two major local companies (Best Buy and Target) and that they immediately took the game off the shelves (story via Minneapolis Star Tribune). As much as we may have blown off the attack by groups aghast by the inclusion of a sexual minigame, the fact is this is a pretty major step.
Rockstar and Take Two could be irreversibly hurt by the former's stupidity. Take Two trading is already down 7% and chances are tomorrow it will drop even more. Take Two was on top of the publishing world with a lot of big deals ahead (they're publishing Sid Meier's Civilization IV and Microsoft's old sports games Top Spin 2 and Amped 3 on the Xbox 360 for instance). Now they could be seriously hurt by this whole thing.
In my opinion, all the blame rests with Rockstar. They've always liked to push the edge of things and their stupidity may have finally caught up to them. Their little "plausible deniability" that it was all the modder's fault went by the wayside when it was found you can unlock the sex minigame in the PS2 version (the one that was out over 6 months ago) and I can only guess you can also do it in the Xbox version.
The ESRB is likely to change their overall ratings as well because the explainations of M and AO ratings are pretty close to each other, nevermind the ratings are just one year off from each other (M is for 17 and higher, AO is for 18 and higher). This is also likely to spark legislation on the state level to hold retailers at fault for selling to people under the ages specified. I like this idea, although I know the retail industry will be against it because they will be the ones to get hit by fines.
Some of you may still blow this off, but this is not another situation where someone is blaming a shooting or child neglect on video games. Instead the developer left in gameplay that could be unlocked that goes beyond the realm of an M rated game. When you use buttons and motions to physically thrust into the woman, making it fully interactive, that goes beyond the M rating in my opinion. I have not seen the "hot coffee" mod at work, but should I get my hands on the PC version I'll be sure to check it out.
I just hope Rockstar and Take Two are ready because their glass tower is shattering apart. Take Two did announce they would have the game available in the fourth quarter with the offending section deleted; we shall see though.