The ESRB is trying to clean up the mess that resulted from the Hot Coffee incident. The ESRB has sent a strongly-worded email to US publishers requiring a full audit of all titles released in the past year to identify hidden content that could be relevant to a game's rating. The ESRB email states that disclosing hidden content that is accessible through cheat codes or Easter eggs has always been an ESRB requirement. As well, a publisher who does not wish hidden content to be accessible must remove it from the game software altogether (i.e., rather than locking it away).
Publishers have until January 9 to disclose the results of their hidden-content audit, and the ESRB says it will issue new ratings if required. It also threatens 'punitive actions"? for failure to give notice of previously undisclosed, non-playable, pertinent content if that content subsequently becomes playable through authorized or unauthorized code.
The board's email also acknowledges that it is concerned about mods and about maintaining the rating system's credibility in the face of mods. This is an interesting point "? should game publishers and the ESRB be responsible for third-party unauthorized mods (which is how Rockstar initially characterized the Hot Coffee mini-game) which add content that could potentially change a game's rating?