Tuesday, July 26

A Grand Old Controversy...

...is just what the marketing department ordered.

Rockstar Games is reaping the benefits of being the Bad Boys on the block, after pretending to have its pants down on "Hot Coffee" grounds.

The makers of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" are laughing all the way to the bank, and are not in any peril regarding the game. (The GTA series is the best-selling ever, with more than 21-million units.) The PR jockeying now is among the retailers.

Rockstar has "pulled" the game off the shelf, while preparing to churn out a version that lacks the hidden sex games that apparently are the only difference between an "M" rating and an "AO" rating. (Literally, the difference between "Recommended for ages 17+" and "Adults Only, 18+") [For more on the silliness and subjectivity of the rating, go check out Maddox.]

In the interim, EBGames (Electronic Boutique) is slapping AO stickers over the top and trotting the units right back onto the shelf. Circuit City and Target have announced they'll wait for the (ahem) acceptable version, and Wal-Mart and Best Buy will look at the new version before making a decision.

EBGames is being fairly straightforward in approach. The PR folks at Circuit City and Target need to prepare for the onslaught of questions about whether they agree with the ratings, and the apparent bias against sex in favor of violence. And the flacks at Best Buy (and their newly-minted counterparts in Bentonville) will have to defend their decisions... even though no one in either company is qualified to crunch source code to see if there are other hidden treasures. Every strategy carries a risk. Do you want to stake your corporate reputation on the "promise" of a video game company that burned you once?

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