GTA 5 Australia Ban Undermines Freedom of Expression, Take-Two Says

"It's a poor leadership decision," Take-Two president says.

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Grand Theft Auto parent publisher Take-Two Interactive president Karl Slatoff on Tuesday spoke out against the two Australian retailers that banned Grand Theft Auto V from sale in the country over its controversial content. Speaking during the BMO Capital Markets Technology and Digital Media Conference, Slatoff said the decision, though it won't impact the company's financial performance in a meaningful way, is particularly problematic because it "flies in the face" of freedom of expression.

"Obviously the Australia situation is disappointing on many levels," Slatoff said. "It's not impactful to our business, frankly. Australia is relatively small. Two retailers are relatively small in the context of Australia. There's other places for folks to buy Grand Theft Auto in Australia."

"If you don't like it; if it's offensive to you, then you don't buy it" -- Karl Slatoff

Slatoff went on to say that he understands some individuals may take issue with GTA V's gritty and at times seedy content, and points out that no one is forcing anyone to buy the game. Where things get troublesome, according to Slatoff, is when a company makes that decision for its entire customer base.

"It's one thing for a person to not want to buy a piece of content, which is completely understandable. And that's really the solution. If you don't like it; if it's offensive to you, then you don't buy it," he said. "But for a person or a group of people to try to make that decision for millions of people ... we have 34 million people who have bought Grand Theft Auto V. If these folks had their way, none of those people would be able to buy Grand Theft Auto."

"And that really just flies in the face of everything that free society's based on," Slatoff added. "It's the freedom of expression, and to try to quelch that is a very dangerous and slippery slope to go down. So it's really more disappointing for us in that regard than it is in the context of our business. Our business is going to be completely unaffected by this. It doesn't make a difference to us. At the end of the day, though, it's not something that you want because it's just a poor leadership decision."

The Australian arms of Target and Kmart, which are owned by the same company, announced last week that they had removed GTA V from sale over concerns about the game's depictions of violence against women.

Grand Theft Auto V is rated R18+ in Australia, which is the highest possible classification rating for a video game. It was released in September last year, and the new version for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched last month. In response to Target Australia pulling the game from sale, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick responded with the following public statement:

"We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto V--a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world. Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today's most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them."

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