Pushing the envelope could very well be Take-Two Interactive's motto. The publisher has become known as one of the more controversial companies in today's class of game makers.
The most notable controversy to hit the company was 2005's Grand Theft Auto "Hot Coffee" scandal, which brought the issue of mature content in games to the mainstream and resulted in the game being rerated, pulled from shelves, and blamed for the behavior of hoodlums across the country.
Of course, the GTA franchise is also one of the most popular, well-rated, and best-selling series in history, making the risk worth the effort financially to keep the GTA games afloat. However, it appears that Take-Two isn't willing to roll the dice with another game it had in development.
The Xbox and PC game Snow, a product of developer Frog City Software, has been canceled, according to CNN/Money's Chris Morris. The game was an empire-building simulation, starring an out-of-work actor trying to make it in the big city. Sound innocent enough? Here's the twist: Gamers tried to make it by becoming a bigwig in the drug trafficking trade.
The game was set to start off humbly, with players slinging pot to small-timers in the late 1970s. As is the case with several crime-centric games, crime does pay, and players would eventually graduate into dealing more potent and profitable drugs, such as cocaine.
Though the game was done in comic-book-style cel-shading, early screenshots showed that this was no Saturday-morning cartoon. Nefarious types riddled with bullets, enough drugs to make Cheech and Chong feel uncomfortable, and gun-totin' babes in bikinis would surely have cemented at least an M-for-Mature rating.
No reason was given for the cancellation, but it appears that it may have come as a result of Take-Two's attempt at cleaning up its image. Take-Two has felt pressure from all angles, including politicians, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and shareholders who have seen the company's stock plummet in the wake of controversy.
The publisher's most recent tussle with the ESRB involved the top-selling fantasy role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was rerated M for Mature. The ratings board found the amount of blood and gore to be too gratuitous for a T-for-Teen rating and also cited a third-party modification that could make some female characters appear topless in the PC version. Bethesda Softworks, the game's developer, did not contest the decision.