SIDEBAR: Last week, Take-Two Interactive announced that it would release a "modified" version of Rockstar Games' Manhunt 2 in the US on October 31, one that had received a rating of M for Mature. The game was originally set for a summer release, but those plans were scuttled after the Entertainment Software Rating Board labeled the game AO for Adults Only. Take-Two did not say what had been changed about the game in order to land the less restrictive rating.
Now a politician with a history of working against violent games wants answers. California Senator Leland Yee, the original author behind the state's recently overturned law banning sales of violent games to minors, called on Rockstar and the ESRB today to further explain how Manhunt 2's rating was changed.
"Parents can't trust a rating system that doesn't even disclose how they come to a particular rating," said Yee. "The ESRB and Rockstar should end this game of secrecy by immediately unveiling what content has been changed to grant the new rating and what correspondence occurred between the ESRB and Rockstar to come to this conclusion. Unfortunately, history shows that we must be quite skeptical of these two entities."
Yee said that the ESRB is funded by the gamemakers themselves (who pay to have their games rated), creating a conflict of interest. Publishers are essentially the ESRB's customers, but giving a game an AO rating cripples its chances of financial success; most retailers refuse to stock such games, and console makers don't allow publishers to make AO-rated games on their systems.
"Manhunt 2 is rated M for Mature audiences by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as recommended for ages 17 and older," a Take-Two representative told GameSpot. "The game will be marketed appropriately to its intended audience in accordance with the ESRB's guidelines. As with all M-rated games, it is not intended for, nor will it be, marketed to children."
As of press time, the ESRB had not returned GameSpot's request for comment on the issue.