May 4, 2006

‘Oblivion’ Video Game to be Relabeled, No Recall

LOS ANGELES -- "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" video game will not be recalled, but will be relabeled to reflect a stricter "mature" industry rating, Bethesda Softworks, the game's developer and co-publisher said in a statement on Thursday.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) on Wednesday revoked its "teen" rating on the title. It cited excessive gore and an art file in the game's PC version that can be modified with a third-party download that lets players change file settings to make the female characters appear topless.

"Teen" rated games are deemed suitable for players ages 13 and up, while content in "mature" games may be suitable for those aged 17 and older.

Bethesda handled the game's ratings application and said it will work with co-publisher 2K Games, a Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (Nasdaq:TTWO - news) publishing label, to put new "mature" rating stickers on "Oblivion" packaging now in stores and warehouses. The rating change will be reflected in the packaging of the new games.

Bethesda stood behind its application, but said it would not contest the ESRB's decision to re-rate the game nor change the game's content to keep a "teen" rating.

Take-Two last summer inflamed video game critics after the ESRB found hidden code in its blockbuster "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" title that, when enabled with a software modification allowed the lead character to engage in explicit sex acts. The resulting scene came to be known as "Hot Coffee."

The ESRB slapped the originally "mature"-rated game with a restrictive "adults only" rating, forcing Take-Two to yank it from store shelves and book millions of dollars in recall-related charges.