'Grand Theft Auto' crashes in Australia

An Australian ratings board revoked 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' classification, making it illegal to sell, advertise, or distribute there.

Under fire in the US from politicians, lawyers and lobbying groups for sexually explicit content, the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, or GTA, has also run into trouble in Australia.

A ratings board there has revoked its classification for GTA, making it illegal to sell, advertise or distribute in the country.

"Businesses that sell or hire computer games should remove existing stocks of this game from their shelves immediately," director of Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification, Des Clark, said in a statement. The office said it revised an earlier decision rating the title okay for anybody 15 and over because the video game contained contentious material that was not brought to its attention when it was classified.

It also cautioned parents over allowing kids to keep playing the game.

Australia is just the latest country to take on GTA, last year's best selling video game. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began an investigation last week at the prompting of lawmakers and amid a growing uproar over sex scenes on the game that players can access by using a software modification dubbed Hot Coffee found easily on the Internet.

The title has already been re-rated in the US to adults only, prompting some retailers like Wal-Mart Stores to remove it from shelves. Take-Two Interactive Software halted production of the title after the ratings change, and revised its sales forecast for the year down by $US40 million.

GTA publisher Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, has said the explicit content was only reachable through the software modification and was not intended for public use.

Take-Two and Rockstar Games also face two class action lawsuits over the game filed in the US. The plaintiffs allege Rockstar Games deceived them with false advertising and common law fraud by failing to disclose hidden content that would have otherwise ensured an adults-only rating.

Take-Two said it believed the complaints were without merit and would seek to have them dismissed.

So far, Europe is the only place that's given Take-Two a break in its troubles over GTA. The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) has said the Hot Coffee modification will not cause it to change the 18 and over rating it originally gave GTA.

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Dan Nystedt

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