TOKYO--Kanagawa prefecture, a region located immediately south of Tokyo, announced today that it will ban the sale of Grand Theft Auto III to minors as of June 7. This will be the first time that a game will be designated as a harmful publication in Japan. GTAIII, published in America by Rockstar Games and developed by Rockstar North, is published in Japan by Capcom. The game has shipped 350,000 units in Japan since its release in the country in September 2003.
Last week, Kanagawa governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa told the press that his prefecture was planning to halt sales of the game to minors because "its setting is very similar to real society, and its level of violence and cruelty is extremely high."
Matsuzaka also said that "unlike videos and movies, games allow users to participate as the main character, and it creates an illusion of reality."
According to Mainichi Shinbun, GTAIII will have to be displayed apart from other software in Kanagawa stores, and those who sell it to minors under the age of 18 will be forced to pay a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,776).
The local government of Saitama, another prefecture near Tokyo, may also ban sales of the game to minors. Officials in Saitama are worried that young gamers may migrate to nearby prefectures to avoid the Kanagawa ban. It is unknown at this time whether Tokyo will follow suit and restrict sales of the game as well and whether Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the Miami-themed follow-up to GTAIII, which was recently released in Japan, will also be tagged with the same fate.
The United States has also been rife with new restrictions on game sales in 2005. Legislative bodies in Illinois, California, and North Carolina are currently considering laws that would restrict sales of M-rated games to minors.