Special Report: In the aftermath of the AO, we look at which retailers still plan to carry San Andreas and which have decided to pull it from their shelves.
Now that the ESRB has officially dropped the Adults Only hammer on Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, retailers across the country are evaluating how best to respond to this new information. In the next several days, Rockstar will be supplying AO stickers to any retailer that wants them to place on the existing game boxes. In cases where retailers decline these stickers and decline to sell the game Rockstar will be forced to recall those copies.
They are currently at work on a patch that will disable the Hot Coffee mod on the PC version and new versions of the PS2, Xbox and PC versions that no longer contain the offending code for the mini-game are in the works (it should be available by the end of the year). The rereleased version will retain the game's original M rating. In the meantime retailers seem split as to what to do. I took a spin around 17 of the largest online stores and GTASA is avaiable at more retailers than I assumed it would have been.
As of noon EST the game has been pulled from the following retailers, with most hiding the game's profile from searches as well:
While those six have pulled it, eight stores are still carrying it as of noon. EBGames.com
only lists used copies for the PS2 and Xbox with the correct AO rating. This is interesting as EBGames was just purchased by GameStop and they seem to have different philosophies when it comes to San Andreas.
CompUSA.com, Outpost.com and Overstock.com
all show the game as having limited inventory and are limiting orders to one per customer. Overstock and Outpost do not include ratings tags in their game profiles but CompUSA has correctly changed the game's rating to AO. Buy.com
is also still selling San Andreas, but they do not tag their games with a rating either. The boxart shown on all of these sites still showed the M rating.
The final three sites that have GTASA available have made no changes to their listing and no efforts to even imply something is going down in the land of Grand Theft Auto. Amazon.com, Kmart.com
all still show it available and all of them have the game still tagged with a Mature rating both on the boxart and in the game profile.
Three other sites sit firmly in the unknown camp as Toysrus.com
(which is operated by Amazon), MediaPlay.com
(which is owned by Best Buy) and Blockbuster.com
(which we'll get to in a minute) all list the game as "backordered". This could be something as simple as the fact that these sites ran out of stock as the game's popularity surged during the first round of Hot Coffee. But with the affiliations and ownerships these three sites have, I'd say MediaPlay and Blockbuster pulled it while Amazon doesn't want their toy arm to carry an Adults Only game.
Brick and mortar stores tell a similar story with some news sites already reporting that most brick and mortar stores are already pulling the game. GameStop
was said to have started as soon as the decree came down from the ESRB yesterday afternoon.
Rental outlets are no different. A call to Blockbuster Video
revealed they have pulled it from rental shelves, but were hesitant to admit to me why they don't have it. "It's not available in the store anymore." was the response I received from the employee. "Is that because of the rating change?" I asked. With a little frustration he said "It's just not in the store anymore."
At Hollywood Video
, I couldn't even finish the question ("Do you have Grand Theft Auto San...") before the response came back ("Nope. They pulled 'em all.").
The best bet in all of this will be the independent game store. I called five indie stores in my area and they all carry it and still plan to carry it. One was even unaware of the ratings change. We shared a shaken head at the attack on our favorite hobby, a joke at the expense of Hilary Rodham Clinton and that was that. It's business as usual at the indie game store.
So there you have it. We now live in the world with an Adults Only game. Yet the world keeps spinning and retail channels keep humming along. While it looks bad, I have a feeling everything's going to be alright. Maybe I'm just an optimist.