When Take-Two Interactive yesterday confirmed that the Entertainment Software Rating Board handed down a rating of AO for Adults Only for Rockstar Games' Manhunt 2 on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo Wii, the publisher said it was exploring its options.
GameSpot has confirmed with Nintendo and Sony that one of those options, which would be to accept the ESRB's judgment and release the game with the AO rating, isn't an option at all. Both companies forbid licensed third-party publishers from releasing games rated AO for Adults Only on their various hardware platforms. Though Manhunt 2 isn't slated for any of Microsoft's systems, the company has also confirmed that it does not allow AO-rated titles on the Xbox or Xbox 360.
The sole exception to this rule was in 2005 when the already released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was retroactively rated AO, at which point retailers pulled it from shelves and Take-Two suspended production of the game.
"It's currently our policy not to allow the playback of AO-rated content on our systems," a Sony spokesperson told GameSpot.
Nintendo's official line was much the same. "Games made for Nintendo systems enjoy a broad variety of styles, genres, and ratings," a representative told GameSpot. "These are some of the reasons our Wii and Nintendo DS systems appeal to such a broad range of people. But as with books, television, and movies, different content is meant for different audiences. That's why the ESRB provides ratings to help consumers understand the content of a game before they purchase it. As stated on Nintendo.com, Nintendo does not allow any AO-rated content on its systems."
Take-Two's most readily available alternatives are to appeal the ESRB's AO rating or to modify the game. As of press time, a Rockstar Games representative had not responded to GameSpot's inquiry about how either move would impact the game's scheduled July 10 release date.