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

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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.

From The Chatty

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    May 3, 2006 1:58 PM

    Jesus Christ... I don't understand the mentality that blood and violence is ok, but god forbid they see a nipple...

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      May 3, 2006 1:59 PM

      well in this case, the blood and violence isnt ok either

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        May 3, 2006 2:04 PM

        You don't really believe that is true, do you? It's no coincidence.

        "Oh, when we rated it the first time we didn't notice all the violence. BULLSHIT, I say."

        Prude pricks.

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          May 3, 2006 2:06 PM

          No, what most likely happened was that Bethesda (or some retailers) received complaints and now they're cutting the problem off at the head.

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      May 3, 2006 2:01 PM

      its completely insane that were allowed to kill 100's of people in a gae yet the nipple is the deciding factor in whether a game is considered "mature" or not.

      saying that though i will admit i was surprised when the game came out with a t rating considering how much gore was in the game.

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      May 3, 2006 2:05 PM

      people are dumb.

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      May 3, 2006 2:11 PM

      We're in the US. Nipples are the devil's spearhead.

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      May 3, 2006 2:19 PM

      This is very upsetting. How can a developer be held accountable for a mod that someone outside of their office created? The ESRB comment acknowledges that the mod is unauthorized! I'm very concerned about the direction in which we are heading. Oblivion is such a beautiful, massive, creative game with SO much less detailed graphic violence than you could see in many films. It's an absolute shame if people do not get to play it because of this rating. I hope the 'pulling from shelves' is only temporary until they get the M stickers and not permanent!

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        May 3, 2006 2:30 PM

        They are held accountable for the file they shipped with the game, that is ACCESSED by a fan created mod.

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        May 3, 2006 2:31 PM

        It's the same thing as in the rockstar case. The dev put the topless art on the disc, they just didn't include in the game. Honestly, I'm surprised after the hot coffee fiasco that Bethesda didn't think better of this.

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          May 3, 2006 3:12 PM

          You have to remember though with a lot of 3d models the actual model is of course naked, then textures are placed over it. Every 3d game I could make nude if I wanted to.

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      May 3, 2006 2:29 PM

      Nipples KILL people! They're everywhere... and they're always watching you... waiting to STRIKE!