You can't get double-talk cheaper, anywhere.
Wal-mart, that bastion of low prices - and low wages - appears to be doing the corporate P.R. two-step in light of its decision to stop pre-order sales of Bully from its web store, Wal-mart.com. The move came shortly after controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson filed suit against the giant retailer and Bully publisher Take-Two Interactive in a Florida court on Wednesday.
The suit and the pulling of the game are not related, according to a Wal-mart P.R. spokesman, who claims that the mega-retailer coincidentally just happened to implement a policy not to pre-sell unrated (or RP for "rating pending") games on the same day that Thompson's Florida case was filed. GP's very limited review of Wal-mart's website this morning, however, quickly turned up several such games for sale, including Crackdown, Phantasy Star Universe, and Justice League Heroes.
To recap the chain of events, after threatening for a couple of days, on Wednesday Thompson filed his lawsuit under a Florida public nuisance statute, claiming, among other things, that to release Bully "is preparing at-risk students here and elsewhere for another Columbine."
By 1:16 on Wednesday afternoon, Thompson sent GamePolitics word that the suit had been filed and attached a copy. GP confirmed the filing with the Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Shortly after 6:00 P.M., the anti-game attorney began sending e-mails claiming that Wal-mart had pulled the game in response to his suit, terming the move a "huge initial victory."
Sure enough, searching "bully" on Wal-mart.com yields only Midway's The Ant Bully, a game based on the recent kid flick.
There was no official explanation from Wal-mart at the time and GP was critical of Thompson on Wednesday for taking a victory lap on such sketchy info. However, Joystiq reported on Thursday that "John Simley from Walmart... said that Wal-mart policy is to not carry any unrated or Rating Pending games for pre-order or sale, in-store or online. This decision was made recently... but just reflected on the web site starting this week, hence the pulling of Bully pre-orders. The policy... had nothing to do with any letters or lawsuits from Jack Thompson."
For his part, Thompson confirmed to GP yesterday that he had heard nothing official from Wal-mart, but added, "Actions speak louder than words."
Kotaku had more, including its own interview with Wal-mart's John Simley, who again denied Thompson's pressure had anything to do with the decision to stop Bully pre-orders.
"I'd like to give credit to Jack Thompson," Simley said, "but there are a lot of Jack Thompsons out there and we are just listening to our customers... If (Bully) comes out as an AO ("adults only" rating) that's not something we are going to carry. I think first we will be looking at the rating. Like any other product though, if it is damaging to our brand or patently offensive regardless of the rating, it's not likely we will carry it."