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'Hot Coffee' Scandal Officially Resolved 189

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-goodie dept.
kukyfrope writes "Take-Two Interactive today announced that the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) inquiry concerning hidden sexual content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has formally closed. All outstanding matters pending before the FTC have been settled and no penalties or fines have been assessed. Although Take-Two was not fined, the company will be subject to civil penalties of $11,000 for future violations. 'We look forward to putting this behind us and focusing on what we do best - creating videogames,' said Take-Two President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Eibeler."
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'Hot Coffee' Scandal Officially Resolved

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  • by creimer (824291) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:26PM (#15759296) Homepage
    Doesn't this game have enough cream and sugar as it? :P
  • by krell (896769) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:27PM (#15759303) Journal
    ...when, if someone does not like what is in a game, they simply refuse to play it and move on (no screaming, no lawsuits, no complaints to the government).
    • This was a "truth-in-labeling" violation. Parents thought they knew what they were buying for their kids, and may have been okay with the violence but not the sexuality of the "hot coffee" scene.
      • This was a "truth-in-labeling" violation. Parents thought they knew what they were buying for their kids, and may have been okay with the violence but not the sexuality of the "hot coffee" scene.
        Yes, killing hookers is fine for young'uns, but consensual sex? Corrupt their poor minds!

        Any kid who's not able to handle the hot coffee is too young to handle the rest of the game. Not to mention, they'll find more explicit porn just looking for the patch to unlock it.
        • by digitrev (989335) <digitrev@hotmail.com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:53PM (#15759502) Homepage
          It's true. And any child who's smart enough to unlock it on his own is probably smart enough to get access other porn.
          • by ScottLindner (954299) on Friday July 21, 2006 @06:04PM (#15760386)
            You're all right, but at the end of the day a parent needs to be able to make informed decisions to raise *their* child the way *they* want to and not leave the Internet to do it for them.
            • by bonk (13623) on Friday July 21, 2006 @06:53PM (#15760662)
              Yeah. If I want to raise my kid to be a violent sociopathic gangster with no respect for human life or property, that should be my right. And I'll be DAMNED if someone tries to go behind my back and teach my kid that consensual sex with a female is acceptable.

            • You're all right, but at the end of the day a parent needs to be able to make informed decisions to raise *their* child the way *they* want to and not leave the Internet to do it for them.
              So why don't they just go and do that? How does fining Rockstar allow parents to monitor their kids on the internet?
            • ...to raise *their* child the way *they* want to and not leave the Internet to do it for them."

              No one wants the internet to raise their child... that's what the TV is for.

            • You're all right, but at the end of the day a parent needs to be able to make informed decisions to raise *their* child the way *they* want to and not leave the Internet to do it for them.

              I would agree with you, except for the little nagging fact that your trusting a body of people to do the 'judging' for you. Meaning, the rating on the outside of the box. Your trusting some other people to decide what your child is ready to see or not.

              So basically your saying, "Ok. The ESRB says that this game is Mature. T

            • Ummm, the game says and has always said right on the box, rated M for Mature, 17+, "Strong Sexual Content"

              http://games.greggman.com/edit/editheadlines/2005- 07-28.htm [greggman.com]

              I don't see how parents didn't have enough info in the first place
        • This was a "truth-in-labeling" violation. Parents thought they knew what they were buying for their kids, and may have been okay with the violence but not the sexuality of the "hot coffee" scene.

          Yes, killing hookers is fine for young'uns, but consensual sex? Corrupt their poor minds!

          I applaud you for completely changing the subject under debate. Truthful advertising is the same thing as killing hookers, right?

          But I suppose you would just shrugs your shoulders when you got sold a box that said it had a 40

          • by Anonymous Coward
            No, but I bet he would shrug if he got a perfect 40" HDTV that would turn into a 16" bnw beast if he went to the store, bought a patch and applied the patch to his tv. Because he could, you know, just not go to the store and not buy the patch and not apply it.

            You know what would be awesome? If you had to get a license before you were allowed to use anologies.
          • I applaud you for completely changing the subject under debate. Truthful advertising is the same thing as killing hookers, right?

            Huh? I was comparing killing hookers in a game to a crappy porn-like minigame. I think the target audience for both is pretty much the same.

            But I suppose you would just shrugs your shoulders when you got sold a box that said it had a 40" HDTV in it and found that it had a 16" black-and-white beast.

            Uh, no. A better analogy would be if you were sold a 40" HDTV and actually go

        • This was a "truth-in-labeling" violation. Parents thought they knew what they were buying for their kids, and may have been okay with the violence but not the sexuality of the "hot coffee" scene.

          I call BS. Said content wasn't even part of the game, and should not have been considered. Even so, GTA is sufficiently notorious that parents should've known what they were getting their kids into. If they didn't, the giant "M" on the cover was a not-so-subtle hint that this game may not be appropriate for Little

      • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:55PM (#15759515)
        Parents thought they knew what they were buying for their kids, and may have been okay with the violence but not the sexuality of the "hot coffee" scene.

        From esrb.org:

        MATURE
        Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

        ADULTS ONLY
        Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

        So, parents bought San Andreas for their 17-year-old kids, thinking it contained sexual content, but not graphic sexual content...? Or perhaps they bought it for their 12-year-old kids, not giving a damn what it contained as long as it shut the little sods up for a while? How many parents actually know what the little symbols on the game mean anyway?

        • How many parents actually know what the little symbols on the game mean anyway?

          Of course they know what those letters mean. They are review scores. Apparently out of 17 because why else would the children ask for games with a 17 and dismiss games with e.g. a 6?
        • some of us (parents) actually read and understand the symbols. it's definately the parents' stupidity to blame on this one...a little forethought, and this would never have been an issue. either sexual content is ok for your kids, or it's not.
      • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:58PM (#15759959) Homepage Journal
        I am so sick and tired of hearing that this is a "truth-in-labeling" violation! This was nothing more than a "protect the children" witch hunt!

        The segment in question was included but was never meant to be accessed! It took someone else's hack, which might or might not have been in violation of the game's EULA, to release it. Therefore, the accessibility to that whole section of code was not authorized by Take Two or Rockstar. Yet they were made the scapegoat in nothing more that a politically-charged witch hunt. There was abosultely NO REASON for Take Two/Rockstar to disclose that information because they had NO EXPECTATION that it would ever been seen by any customer.

        For example, let's say that I included the following type of code in a huge program that I'm writing. (No comments about the Perl. I'm just making an example.)

        $ESRB = "Neutral";
        if ($ESRB eq "Evil") {
        print "The ESRB is a bunch of fucking, holier-than-thou, moralistic morons.\n";
        print "And you're mother's ugly, too.\n";
        }

        Obviously, that code is never meant to be seen because $ESRB is being explicity set to bypass the if statement. So, I compile the whole program, with the code that was never meant to be seen, get a "T" rating for the whole program, and release the program. In my EULA is an explicit statement that no one is allowed to modify the code.

        Then some moron sees it in the compiled code and releases an unauthorized hack to change $ESRB to "Evil". Suddenly, there's a big bruhaha because it should have been "M" due to the language of the code.

        Now the ESRB and Thompson are on my case for not revealing the code that was in there. WHY? The code was never meant to be seen - not even as an Easter egg. There is no reasonable expectation of me letting the ESRB know that the code was in there because there was no reasonable expectation that it would ever be seen. Someone went in without my permission and modified the code to see something that was never meant to be seen.

        There is no reason why Take Two/Rockstar should be held accountable for the release of something that was never meant to be available in the first place. This was nothing close to a "truth-in-labeling" violation. It was a do-gooder, "for the sake of the children", witch hunt. Rockstar took the high road and just let it slide, which was probably the best PR they could have done, but they were nothing more than a scapegoat.
        • Amen, brother!!

          I take exception to only one sentence you wrote: It was a do-gooder, "for the sake of the children", witch hunt.

          The witch hunters were not do-gooders. They were witch hunters, pure, simple and 100% evil. There was nothing good in what they did, there were no children "protected", there were no parents enlightened. They grabbed their immoral viewpoint (hey, I have morals and they're nothing like what these idiots espouse) and dragged it into a courtroom, where they confused a judge int

        • This was nothing more than a "protect the children" witch hunt!

          Historically, the witches being hunted were usually spinsters, desperately poor and quite often schizophrenic or some similar affliction.

          Comparing a modestly successful video game company (or a prominent politician as you usually here) being dragged through entirely nonviolent proceedings to a witch being pressed [wikipedia.org] for a confession is as ridiculous as calling someone a pirate for downloading an MP3.
          • The definition of "witch hunt" in this case is far more accurate than you might think.

            From Answers.com [answers.com] (emphasis mine):

            witch-hunt also witch hunt (wch'hnt') n.

            An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

            witchhunter witch'-hunt'er n.
            witchhunting witch'-hunt'ing adj. & n.


            Mind telling again me how this is not an accurate term?
        • This was nothing more than a "protect the children" witch hunt!

          Sorry, the truth is that things are more complicated than you are aware of. Take Two is a publicly traded company. Federal law requires that Take Two inform *investors* of the risks that face the company. If Hot Coffee was intentional, a marketing gimmick, then Take Two had a legal responsibility to inform investors that its marketing strategy could result in product recalls, no charge replacements, loss of retail outlets, etc. The FTC had e
        • >>> "There is no reason why Take Two/Rockstar should be held accountable for the release of something that was never meant to be available in the first place."

          Wow, that's naive in the extreme. "never meant to be available". Er, yeah, right!

          Take Two: Like, ooh darn-it how did we accidentally develop and leave in all those extra bits and then get our friends to release a patch making us ten times more money than we would have made. Shucks, best not do that again.

          Goverment: We'll fine you $11k if you
          • Wow, that's probably one of the most stupid posts I've seen on slashdot in a while, -congratulations.

            They got "their friends" to release a patch eh? - the PC gaming guys trawled through the data files looking for stuff and found this, once discovered I beleive it was then attempted on the consoles with a gameshark device and also found.

            As for increased sales due this, L.O.L indeed - rockstar get an obscene (note the pun) amount of sales with or without some shitty little porn section of the game.

            Think befo
          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:30AM (#15762070)
            All the time games leave assets in they don't use. It's a problem that MS is actually working to solve with the Xbox 360 dev kits (to save space). You make an asset for a game, maybe a level, model, texture, or even whole mini game that just doesn't make it in to the final product. However you don't remove it since you don't know what else relies on the presence of that, and since space usually isn't short.

            My bet is they made the Hot Coffee game, realised it'd get them an AO rating, and so cut it. Pure and simple.

            You can see a similar thing with Civ 4. There's mods that will add some "lost wonders." These are wonders with full videos, info and everything, they are fully produced. Basically, Firaxis planned on using them, but then cut them later, I believe for game balance reasons. However they didn't bother to remove the assets so witha bit of XML and LUA modificaiton, they can go back in the game.
        • Honestly, no one except insiders know the true intent.

          However, while it's easy to give them the benefit of the doubt that they left in executable code that wasn't intended to be accessed, doesn't it seem strange that they left in the animation data for the Hot Coffee sequence?

          If they hadn't included those files on the disc, the game would probably have just crashed when it was hacked.

        • The segment in question was included but was never meant to be accessed!

          Don't be naive. Of course it was ment to be accessed. Ant it was. And the segment in question worked like it was supposed to: people started to talk about Grand Theft Auto and Take-Two. And I think that even a few teenagers bought the game to see the "hot coffee".
    • I agree but some people dont have anything better to do than complain. Also, I would say kids will gravitate towards that but that is the parents fault for not taking the game away or not buying it in the first place. In the end, it is the parents fault for not paying attention and then filing a lawsuit for their own mistake!
  • by chrismcdirty (677039) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:28PM (#15759317) Homepage
    'We look forward to putting this behind us and focusing on what we do best - creating videogames'
    I thought what they did best was create controversy.
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:50PM (#15759476)
      Yeah. And I daresay controversy like this only makes kids want San Andreas all the more.

      Why not just rate every damn thing 'AO'? Certainly in the UK, GTA and similar games are rated '18' just for the violence, so 'Hot Coffee' wasn't a problem. Had it been included fully in the game, it would still have been an '18'.

      There's no way a GTA game should be aimed at children. What's the quarrel between an 'M', which I gather means '17', and an 'AO' which means '18'? Shame to lose out on the seventeen-year-old market, I suppose, but it would free Rockstar to put what the hell they liked into the game without worrying about whether some deleted scene will resurface and cause trouble.

      • by gregbains (890793) <greg_bains&hotmail,com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:04PM (#15759588) Homepage Journal
        IIRC an AO will not be sold in shops like WalMart who prefer to keep such games away from their "good family morals" business, losing out on the WalMart market is a bigger loss than just losing out on the 17 market
      • by tinkerghost (944862) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:04PM (#15759590) Homepage
        Retailers not 17 year olds, retailers won't stock it on the shelves if it's AO. Why?, because in some twisted marketing mindspace things nasty enough for mature teenagers only (graphic violence and aluded to sex) is credible, where-as adult only items (boobs) are the kiss of death to your credibility as a store.
        My wife sometimes wonders if she's a bad parent because she would prefer her son to be surfing porn than sites like this [stickdeath.com]. Personally, I think seeing sex is a whole lot heathier than violence. Hmm, in that light, the 'Hot Coffee' is the most acceptable part of that game ...
        • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:11PM (#15759641)
          Retailers not 17 year olds, retailers won't stock it on the shelves if it's AO. Why?, because in some twisted marketing mindspace things nasty enough for mature teenagers only (graphic violence and aluded to sex) is credible, where-as adult only items (boobs) are the kiss of death to your credibility as a store.

          Hmm. Interesting.

          Very well... when the time comes to release GTA: TOKYO 2050 or whatever the next version might be, release the FULL-BLOODED version which Rockstar actually want to put out, and also the PARENT-SAFE version for Wal-Mart, in which we replace all the sex scenes with, oh, our hero dancing happily with Barney the Dinosaur or something like that.

          Then put up the patch to convert PARENT-SAFE up to FULL-BLOODED on ftp. Like the Carmageddon guys did back in the day, when censors forced them to replace pedestrians with green-blooded zombies. Back then, every PC games magazine put the Carmageddon blood patch on every cover disk for months, for the benefit of non-wired readers. I'm quite sure the same would happen with GTA.

          If you make it absolutely clear that the patch is AO content and will convert your wholesome, ultra-violent GTA game to a sexually deviant, ultra-violent GTA game, and that it's for those who accidentally bought the wrong version, you should be in the clear. There's no sex on the disk bought by the parents in the shop - so they knew what they were buying. There's plenty of sex on the later download, but hey - if you install AO patches, you expect AO content, right?

        • I didn't know white trash could use the internet...

        • by Lord Kano (13027) on Friday July 21, 2006 @06:10PM (#15760419) Homepage Journal
          Personally, I think seeing sex is a whole lot heathier than violence.

          I have one word for you sir, Bukkake.

          I'd much, much rather explain to a child why the bad man on TV shot someone than explain why all of those bad men are glunking all over some poor woman's face.

          LK
    • Have you played the GTA games? They're better games than they are controversy.
  • $14,000 per incident is nothing compared to the scale of a major video game publisher. Shouldn't they be liable for closer to $1.4 million the next time they release M rating content hidden within a lower-rated game?
    • I think that was basically the idea. Slap em on the wrist, because an M-rated game should already only be bought by non-minors. There's more sex and nudity in today's PG-13 movies than most M rated games.
    • What's the definition of incident?

      Is it per Hot Coffee, or is it per Hot Coffee sold?
    • It's a game about shooting and beating people. If anyone likely to be twisted by fuzzy polygon boobs is playing, their parents are incompetent.
      • "If anyone likely to be twisted by fuzzy polygon boobs is playing, their parents are incompetent."

        If anyone is likely to be damaged by virtual titties, their parents have already failed them long before the game was purchased.
    • Before anybody rings me up for inaccuracy... Let me correct that Hot Coffee deserves an AO rating, whlie GTA only wore an M.
      • Before anybody rings me up for inaccuracy... Let me correct that Hot Coffee deserves an AO rating, whlie GTA only wore an M.

        Which, as I understand it, means San Andreas was originally rated suitable for people aged 17 and up, but with the restoration of the supposedly deleted scene it ought to have been rated only for people aged 18 and up.

        Yeah. I can see why this is a major upset. I mean, with the enormous difference between a naive, callow youth of 17 able to deal only with baseball-bat beatings, driv

    • by snuf23 (182335) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:37PM (#15759397)
      "release M rating content hidden within a lower-rated game"

      You mean A rated content hidden within a M rated game. The GTA series is rated M. The beauty of it is that according to the rating system 17 year olds are "mature" enough to deal with beating innocent bystanders to death with a baseball bat but should not be exposed to nudity or sex.
    • $14,000 per incident is nothing compared to the scale of a major video game publisher. Shouldn't they be liable for closer to $1.4 million the next time they release M rating content hidden within a lower-rated game?

      The fine is trivial.

      Keeping your product on the shelves of the big box retailers is not.

      In an election year, social conservatives and Republicans in particular won't be happy to see video game violence and sex back in the news again. The FTC should be least of Rockstar's worries.

  • by k3v0 (592611) <k3v0@[ ]0.net ['k3v' in gap]> on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:30PM (#15759337) Homepage Journal
    what does Eric Clapton have in common with coffee?

    They both suck without cream
  • slap on the wrist (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Belgarion89 (969077)
    Wow, they got off easy. Eric Idle dropped the F-bomb on the radio and got fined $5,000
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:32PM (#15759348)

    From the last line in the article:

    The removal of San Andreas from most retailers' shelves followed by a re-rating of the title resulted in a loss of nearly $25 million.

    Ouch!

    • ### The removal of San Andreas from most retailers' shelves followed by a re-rating of the title resulted in a loss of nearly $25 million.

      Sales number put GTA:SA on par with the previous GTA releases, so while pulling it back from the shelves for sure costs some money, I can't see how that should go anywhere near that $25mio number.
  • big deal? (Score:4, Informative)

    by celardore (844933) on Friday July 21, 2006 @03:46PM (#15759452)
    People made an awful big fuss of this. The fact is that you had to delibrately do something to even enable the Hot Coffee feature. Sure the company put it in there, but the user had to make a choice and do several things to enable it. Wasn't like it was there for all to see willy-nilly.
    • by mmcguiggan (969088)
      Even so, I feel it ruined that inoocent and wholesome feeling you get when lighting prostitutes and innocent bystanders ablaze.
      • by oahazmatt (868057) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:01PM (#15759566) Journal
        Even so, I feel it ruined that inoocent and wholesome feeling you get when lighting prostitutes and innocent bystanders ablaze.

        I hear ya, buddy. I remember when Grand Theft Auto was a family game. We'd all sit around the television, cheering each other on. I remember Gran'pa screaming "Way to go Billy! Twice in the head and drop the gun, that's my boy!"

        But after Hot Coffee? I just don't know anymore.
    • 4 responces
      • How dare you impune my credibility by pointing out the obvious fact that I'm wrong?
      • Can't you see that I'm doing this for the children?
      • Goodness, if you won't let me go after Take-Two for this, how can I possibly go after the boobie mods for all the other games out there?!
      • It's not like parents should have to take any responsibility for what their children are doing on a computer. That's downright unAmerican.
      Choose one & run with it.
  • Yes but... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Ponga (934481)
    What about the 'Hot Grits' Scandal??
  • ....... So somebody will need to buy him some hot coffee to calm him down.
  • the company will be subject to civil penalties of $11,000 for future violations

    No fine this time and $11,000 in the future? They couldn't buy publicity this cheap! They would be fools not to put something in future releases that was intended to get them fined.

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:49PM (#15761485) Journal
    Take-Two Interactive today announced that the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) inquiry concerning hidden sexual content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has formally closed.
    ... but can be reopened with an optional code.
  • What always amazed me about this whole deal is that God of War which is also rated M has a sex mini game right in the beginning of the game that requires nothing to unlock, is meant to be seen by everyone who plays the game. The game has topless women in it........

    AND NOBODY FREAKIN CARES!

    This whole thing about hot coffee is a load of crap. It was self-righteous outrage about something that isn't a problem. I'm glad Take Two got off with what amounts to a speeding ticket.
  • As much as it is right to argue that there shouldn't be much fuss over what is an already extremely explicit game, the fact is that it should have been Adults Only if the mod was in the game instead of it's R, what I find amazing is the way that it actually required external code to open the mod and they still claimed that it was content meant to be played in the game. Does that mean if somewhere in an encrypted archive on a game DVD there is a topless woman picture that isn't even used then the game should
  • I may get modded troll for this but I am annoyed with the whole 'Hot coffee' ordeal because I can't trade in my copy of GTA:San Andreas at any used game store because it has the 'bad' content on it and apparently has been banned from sale. I didn't really care for GTA:San Andreas and I was very pissed off when I was told that I couldn't trade it in towards something else because of this.

    I would sell it on Ebay but last time I checked, they're flooded with other people trying to unload their copy. In turn, i
    • Just hang onto it, and let the glut of eBay people dumping their copy get out of the way. Yours has the original content on it, and the passage of time won't change that. It's a collector's item, really. I'm keeping mine, but if you want to sell it, just be patient, and it will probably only go up in value, in time.

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