An Australian retailer has removed Grand Theft Auto 5 from its shelves following a petition attracting over 40,000 signatures. Organisers of the petition singled out GTA's depictions of sexual violence, prompting retailer Target to pull the game nationally.
"We've been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game's content," Target general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper said in a statement.
"We've also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue. However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA V is in line with the majority view of our customers."
According to the petition on Change.org, the three organisers are survivors of sexual violence. They're specifically concerned by the treatment of sex workers in the game.
"It's a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment," the description reads. "The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
"Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale."
The move prompted Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick to make a statement. Take-Two is Rockstar's parent company.
“We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto V -- a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world," Zelnick said.
"Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today's most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them.”
Grand Theft Auto 3 was banned in Australia weeks after its release in 2001, prompting a new revised edition which removed the ability to engage with sex workers in the game. Nonetheless, these elements were not removed from following GTA titles for Australian audiences.
GTA 5 will release for PC on January 27.