Whatever you think of the Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion ratings mess, give Bethesda Softworks points for standing tall.
In a press release posted on Bethesda's website, the Oblivion developer admits that it - and not co-publisher Take-Two Interactive - handled the ESRB rating application process. Take-Two, of course, took a major hit over last year's Hot Coffee scandal, and their involvement - however peripheral - with Oblivion has already caught the attention of some game industry critics.
Bethesda reports that it will "will promptly implement the ratings change that the ESRB has ordered for Oblivion."
The company does not plan a product recall or a change in Oblivion to meet T (teen) rating standards. Nor will Bethesda contest the ESRB's decision. The company will work with Take-Two (whose name is, curiously enough, completely absent from the press release, which refers to it only as "co-publisher") to re-sticker existing inventory. New copies will be printed with the M (mature) rating ordered by the ESRB.
As far as it role, Bethesda said it made what it believes was a "full, accurate, and comprehensive submission on Oblivion to the ESRB months before the game's release. Bethesda used the ESRB's application forms and believes it adhered closely to their requirements. Nothing was hidden from the ratings agency. No effort was made by Bethesda to lobby or influence the agency for any particular rating."
Bethesda goes on to say, "There is no nudity in Oblivion without a third party modification. In the PC version of the game only... some modders have used a third party tool to hack into and modify an art archive file to make it possible to create a mesh for a partially nude (topless) female that they add into the game. Bethesda didn't create a game with nudity and does not intend that nudity appear in Oblivion. There is no nude female character in a section of the game that can be 'unlocked.'"
The Oblivion ratings issue does not bode well for the mod community, as witnessed by Bethesda's comment that, "Bethesda can not control tampering with Oblivion by third parties. Bethesda is taking steps to ensure that modders can not continue to hack into Oblivion's art archives to create partially nude figures."
Depite the problems presented by this rather messy episode, Bethesda reaffirms its support for the ESRB as well as for Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion.
GP: ...and well they should. It's a fantastic game. As far as their comments about the mod community, it's a concern, but who can blame Bethesda?
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