Who spilled 'Hot Coffee?'

From Simon Parkin at Eurogamer comes a fascinating look at the "Hot Coffee" controversy. In 2005, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive face a torrent of scrutiny over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the fifth installment in a series of crime-centered adventure games. The problem was a modification called "Hot Coffee," which allowed players to access sexually explicit content that had been stripped from the final release, but not removed from the code.

Modders discovered the code, and what was supposed to be an exercise in curiosity, turned out to be a big headache for the game's creators:

On 20th July 2005, the ESRB changed the rating of GTA: San Andreas from Mature to Adults Only 18+. Four of America's largest game retailers - Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Circuit City - removed the game from their shelves. Rockstar raced to recall the games while creating a version in which the Hot Coffee content was inaccessible, even with Wildenborg's mod.

As news of the Hot Coffee content spilled into mainstream culture, the issue became politicised. Senator Hillary Clinton called for federal game regulation and the Federal Trade Commission launched its own investigation. A Class Action Complaint For Violations Of Federal Securities Laws was brought against Take-Two, with the plaintiffs alleging: “By merely 'wrapping' rather than removing the Adult Content, Defendants knew that the Adult Content would inevitably be made widely available.”