Take-Two have announced that the the U.S. Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on all platforms from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+" (AO) because of the Hot Coffee mod.
The ruling, which does not affect the U.K. version as it is already under an 18+ rating, means that Rockstar will have to cease production of the current version of the game and begin working on a version of the game that will prevent access to the Hot Coffee modifications, the PC version of the game will also get a patch to render it impervious to the modification. Whether this patch will apply to non-US versions or the game re-issued outside of the US is yet unclear.
After the re-release of the game, expected in the fourth quarter, the rating will return to the original ESRB M-rating and Rockstar will be issuing AO labels for retailers who wish to continue to sell the current version.
"Take-Two and Rockstar Games have always worked to keep mature-themed video game content out of the hands of children and we will continue to work closely with the ESRB and community leaders to improve and better promote a reliable rating system to help consumers make informed choices about which video games are appropriate for each individual," said Paul Eibeler, Take-Two's President and Chief Executive Officer. "The ESRB's decision to re-rate a game based on an unauthorized third party modification presents a new challenge for parents, the interactive entertainment industry and anyone who distributes or consumes digital content. Rockstar Games is pleased that the investigation is now settled and they look forward to returning their focus to making innovative and groundbreaking video games for a mature audience."
The scenes depicted in the "hot coffee" modification are not playable in the retail version of the game unless the user downloads and/or installs unauthorized software that alters the content of the original retail version of the title, representing a violation of Take-Two and Rockstar's end user license agreement (EULA) and intellectual property rights. "We are deeply concerned that the publicity surrounding these unauthorized modifications has caused the game to be misrepresented to the public and has detracted from the creative merits of this award winning product," said Mr. Eibeler. Take-Two is exploring its legal options as it relates to companies that profited from creating and distributing tools for altering the content of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.