The much-publicised 'Hot Coffee' episode finally frothed over this week, with GTA: San Andreas having its 17+ 'Mature' rating snatched away in favour of the stricter 18+ 'Adults Only'.
Investigations in America concluded that the game DID indeed contain CJ's explicit bedroom frolics in the form of a mini-game, although it found publisher Rockstar 'not guilty' of ever intending this to be cracked by consumers.
As a result of the verdict, Rockstar has announced that manufacturing of the current code has ceased, and that a 'Hot Coffee'-free San Andreas will be developed at the 'Mature' rating. Existing copies will carry the 'Adults Only' classification.
"After a thorough investigation, we have concluded that sexually explicit material exists in a fully rendered, unmodified form on the final discs of all three platform versions of the game," ESRB president Patricia Vance said in an official statement.
Senator Hilary Clinton, who was also a vociferous figure during the investigation, praised the rating change and expressed hope that the case may have wider repercussions for the whole industry. Reported in the Washington Post today, she said: "Apparently the sexual material was embedded in the game. The company admitted that. The fact remains that the company gamed the ratings system."
Rockstar's parent company Take-Two co-operated fully during the case, despite reported original claims saying that the 'Hot Coffee' sex game was the work of outsiders. Its president and CEO Paul Eibeler issued the following statement:
"Take-Two and Rockstar Games have always worked to keep mature-themed video game content out of the hands of children and we will continue to work closely with the ESRB and community leaders to improve and better promote a reliable rating system to help consumers make informed choices about which video games are appropriate for each individual.
"The ESRB's decision to re-rate a game based on an unauthorized third party modification presents a new challenge for parents, the interactive entertainment industry and anyone who distributes or consumes digital content. Rockstar Games is pleased that the investigation is now settled and they look forward to returning their focus to making innovative and groundbreaking video games for a mature audience."
As well as the development of a 'Hot Coffee'-free San Andreas, reportedly due for release around Q4, Rockstar will also issue a patch for the PC version, which will block CJ's frivolous activity. Kind of like a videogame anti-stiffness pill, we guess...
It has not yet been announced how these findings will affect the European version of the game, especially as it already carries a BBFC 18 rating in the UK. You can expect official announcements on this front soon.