Take-Two Proposes 'Hot Coffee' Lawsuit Settlement, Will Reward 'Offended' with up to $35

Publisher Take-Two's proposed settlement for a class action lawsuit stemming from the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "Hot Coffee" fiasco will reward "offended and upset" owners of the original, unmodified game with up to $35 a piece.

The cash payout is just one of many settlement options Take-Two is said to provide, with another being an exchange for an edited copy of the game. Full details on the possible settlements are expected in mid-November when the Settlement Agreement is filed with the Court, and the company is sure to point out that the amount of cash payments depends on the number of people that apply.

To qualify, Take-Two stipulates that owners of the game must submit a "detailed" proof of purchase and swear that: they bought the game before July 20, 2005, were "offended and upset" by the "Hot Coffee" content, would not have purchased the game had they known about the content, and would have returned the game upon learning about the content "if they thought this was possible."

More details, including how those interested can participate and exactly what they need to submit, are expected shortly.

The settlement, which would cost the company at least $1.025 million but no more than $2.75 million, only needs the approval of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Should it pass, Take-Two and Rockstar will emerge from the action without "any admission of liability or wrongdoing."

The "Hot Coffee" mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PC, PS2, Xbox), developed by Take-Two subsidiary Rockstar, allowed players to engage in a sex mini-game. However, the content was not accessible through normal gameplay, and could only be activated by using a third-party cheat device or modification.

That didn't stop the ESRB from coming down hard on Take-Two, as the ratings board claimed it was unaware such content was on the disc. The game was re-rated Adults Only, and Take-Two was forced to pull the game from stores and produce an edited version to re-obtain the previous Mature rating.

Though the latest Rockstar release, Manhunt 2 (PS2, Wii, PSP) was embroiled in a similar scandal, the ESRB concluded that the game would keep its Mature rating as it was already aware of said content, which required substantial effort to view.

"If the case had continued, we believe the court would have agreed that Take-Two was not liable for consumers acting independently to modify their games with third-party hardware and software to access normally inaccessible content," said Take-Two CEO Ben Feder. "Nonetheless, we believe it is in the best interest of the Company to avoid protracted and costly litigation to prove our case and to finally put this matter behind us."