Rockstar and FTC Settle in Hot Coffee Case
Last year's controversy over the hidden sex-themed mini-game tickled the fancy of many politicians and litigators looking for an issue to get behind, no matter how silly and banal it might be. But it did bring up a good point - should companies disclose everything coded into a game, despite the fact that the content would never be accessible to the average player (indeed, Hot Coffee was still on the game disc, but could only be turned on via a modification)?
The Federal Trade Commission thinks so and though they thankfully didn't slap Rockstar and publisher Take-Two with a bevy of high-priced fines, they did issue the following compromise:
"The proposed consent agreement with the FTC requires Take-Two and Rockstar Games to clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement for electronic games, content relevant to the rating, unless that content had been disclosed sufficiently in prior submissions to the rating authority. In addition, the companies cannot misrepresent the rating or content descriptors for an electronic game. Finally, the companies must establish, implement, and maintain a comprehensive system reasonably designed to ensure that all content in an electronic game is considered and reviewed in preparing submissions to a rating authority. Once the order becomes final, the companies will be subject to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation if they violate the order. The companies will be subject to compliance reporting requirements to ensure that they meet the terms of the order."
The settlement bodes well for the video game industry as a whole, setting a standard of understanding and compliance in opposition to the overreaction of certain individuals (*cough*JackThompson*cough*) within the public sphere. You can view the full report at the FTC's website.
6/12/2006 Cavin Smith