The US Federal Trade Commission announced today that it has reached a settlement with Take-Two and Rockstar Games regarding GTA San Andreas.
GTA San Andreas sparked enormous controversy last year when it was revealed that the game contained hidden sexual content. As a result, the game was re-rated from M to AO by the ESRB, and there was great public and political outcry (and not a few lawsuits).
The FTC complaint alleged that Take-Two and Rockstar undermined the game industry ratings system and deceived consumers by failing to disclose that the game contained unused but potentially viewable nude images and a disabled but potentially playable sexual mini-game.
Highlights of the proposed consent agreement (which is subject to public comment for 30 days, after which the FTC will decide whether to make the agreement final) include
Take-Two and Rockstar will clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging, and in any promotion or advertisement, content relevant to the rating, unless that content has been sufficiently disclosed in prior submissions to the rating authority.
The companies cannot misrepresent the rating or content descriptors for an electronic game.
The companies must establish, implement and maintain a comprehensive system reasonably designed to ensure that all content in an electronic game is considered and reviewed in preparing submissions to a rating authority.
Once the order becomes final, the companies will be subject to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
The agreement does not deal a great blow to Take-Two and Rockstar (who have already incurred large costs in dealing with the Hot Coffee incident), but imposes strict requirements regarding how the companies' video game content is rated.