Hot Coffee Strikes Again, Oblivion Re-Rated (Updated)

By Chris Remo, May 03, 2006 1:56pm PDT Today, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board issued a parental warning announcing that the rating for Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (X360, PC) has had its rating changed from "T (Teen)" to "M (Mature)". The change follows the ESRB's reevaluation of certain violent and sexual content in the game. As well as determining that the depictions of blood and gore in the game are in fact of greater intensity than was originally taken into consideration when the game was first rated, the change also reflects the Hot Coffee-like discovery of hidden files within the game that, when accessed via a fan-created mod, allow gamers to play the game using topless female characters. These files are only accessible within the PC version of the game, but it appears that due to the violent content, the rating change will apply to both the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game.
The pertinent content causing the change in the ESRB rating involves more detailed depictions of blood and gore than were considered in the original rating of the game (the game already carried a Blood and Gore content descriptor), as well as the presence in the PC version of the game of a locked-out art file that, if accessed by using an apparently unauthorized third party tool, allows the user to play the game with topless versions of female characters. The locked-out topless skin was found by ESRB to exist in a fully rendered form on the game disc, but is not accessible in the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Rumors have emerged in the past few days that Oblivion has been pulled off the shelves of many retailers, which is now explained by the ESRB's action. According to the organization, developer Bethesda is contacting retailers to ensure that the game is not sold to consumers under the age of 17. Stores will also be required to rebrand existing packaging with "M (Mature)" stickers, which will be included on the packaging of further print runs. Bethesda is also working on a patch for the PC version of the game that will disable access to the offending art assets.

Coincidentally enough, Oblivion is co-published by Take-Two Interactive, parent company of Rockstar Games. Last year, Take-Two and Rockstar were blasted for similar hidden materials in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Xbox, PC), in last year's "Hot Coffee" scandal. When accessed through a mod or a third party "cheat code" device, players were able to participate in a mini-game depicting sexual activity between consenting adults.

"This proactive move to change the rating once again confirms that ESRB's first priority is to ensure that consumers have reliable, accurate information with which to make educated decisions about the games they or their children play," said ESRB president Patricia Vance.

UPDATE: Bethesda Softworks has issued a press release responding to the ESRB's rating change on Oblivion. The response indicates that Bethesda will be acting in full compliance with the wishes of the ESRB on the matter, but is also firm in stating that Bethesda proceeded in good faith throughout all of its dealings with the ESRB in obtaining the original "T (Teen)" rating for the game. Bethesda reiterates that there is no nudity in Oblivion without players resorting to a third party modification, and the company is currently working to ensure that such tampering cannot occur in the future. The developer also maintains that it fully disclosed all violent content in the game during the ratings process, including indicating that the game has "frequent" blood and violence as well as "occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore." Co-publisher does not expect the change to affect the success of the title, which has seen universal acclaim and strong sales figures since its release in March.

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68 Threads | 230 Comments

  • I find it disconcerting that after ESRB re-rate Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion to Mature, so many people spoke out against ESRB.

    The truth of the matter is that ESRB is the best thing for the industry right now. Video games is currently self-regulated and a large part of that is thank to tireless organization such as ESRB, ESA (Entertainment Software Association), IEMA (Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association) who fight for the rights of gamers everywhere.

    ESRB needs to be strict and effective at a time when politician wants to change the industry from one that is being self-regulated to being government-regulated. Can you imagine how much worst off if the Hilary Clinton and Leland Yee of the world were to head a government agency rating video games? The process would be so strict and time consuming that developers and publishers would freak out and quite possibility never make another Mature rated title.

    That's right, no more Grand Theft Auto or another violent Halo shooter. Don't think I am correct, read the latest 2005 ESA report on video games, Mature rated title while extremely popular with many gamers only make up of 16% of all games purchased last year. Now, imagine our industry no longer being self-regulated by ESRB and instead regulated by governement agency whose goal is to restrict violent video games, and you can bet that a lot of publishers and developers will just give up and just make T or E rated games....

    How can you help ensure that this day never happens? Continue to support ESRB and don't let minors buy M rated games. Everybody need to do their part so we can continue to be self-regulated and be sure to sign up at http://www.videogamevoters.org/.














  • This has been said before, but how are people not grasping that downloading a 3rd-party mod and installing it is more time consuming and difficult than just downloading porn? Ok, thats not exactly a legal arguement, but it makes the rabble-rousers look stupid.

    If the game is too violent and ESRB screwed up, fine, but if thats not the reason, well you can't access the nudity without modding the game, so why change the rating? They just need to throw in another EULA paragraph that basically says "Game experience may change when modded."