Circuit City Scraps GTA

Major electronics retailer Circuit City has announced plans to remove Rockstar Games best-selling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from its shelves. The decision was made in response to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s ruling that the game’s rating be changed from “Mature 17+” to “Adults Only 18+.” Circuit City does not sell games with “Adults Only 18+” ratings.

The ESRB changed the rating for San Andreas after gamers who downloaded something called the "hot coffee mod" found that they could unlock sexually explicit material hidden in the game. The news caused outrage among parents groups and once again cast the GTA franchise in a negative light.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., publisher of San Andreas, issued a statement saying the “hot coffee mod” is an unauthorized third party modification that alters the retail version of the game. The company cooperated fully with the ESRB’s investigation and says Rockstar Games will begin working on a new version of the game that has enhanced security to prevent modifications.

The safeguarded release will retain the original "Mature" rating and is expected to be available during the company’s fourth fiscal quarter. Retailers that wish to continue selling remaining copies of the current version may still do so. These will be identified by the "Adults Only" labels.

“We take our responsibility to the public and our shareholders seriously, and as soon as the company learned about the ESRB action, we started the process to stop the sale of this title,” says Phil Schoonover, president of Circuit City Stores, Inc.

Circuit City’s web operations and brick-and-mortar locations nationwide received e-mails Wednesday night telling them to remove San Andreas from shelves and return them to company distribution centers. The recall covers both PC and console platforms.

Though San Andreas has already sold millions of copies, being yanked from Circuit City shelves will certainly have a negative impact on sales. The company operates 614 superstores and five mall-based shops in 158 U.S. markets, while the international segment operates through more than 960 retail stores and dealer outlets in Canada.