Australian retailers Target and Kmart pulled Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves last week after a petition decrying its depictions of sexual violence attracted more than 48,000 signatures. The move had echoes of Australia's infamous days of censoring R18+ games, although this was different: a private retailer making a decision about what it chooses to sell to its customers. Nonetheless, the president of publisher Take-Two Interactive said pulling the game "flies in the face of everything that free society's based on."
"It's one thing for a person to not want to buy a piece of content, which is completely understandable. And that's really the solution. If you don't like it, if it's offensive to you, then you don't buy it," Karl Slatoff said at the BMO Capital Markets Technology and Digital Media Conference, as reported by GameSpot. "But for a person or a group of people to try to make that decision for millions of people... We have 34 million people who have bought Grand Theft Auto V. If these folks had their way, none of those people would be able to buy Grand Theft Auto."
Slatoff insisted that his concerns aren't about money, as the small size of the Australian market means the decision won't have an impact on Take-Two's bottom line, and the game remains widely available from other sources anyway.
"It's the freedom of expression, and to try to quelch that is a very dangerous and slippery slope to go down," he said. "Our business is going to be completely unaffected by this. It doesn't make a difference to us. At the end of the day, though, it's not something that you want because it's just a poor leadership decision."
The petition calling for the removal of the game said Grand Theft Auto V "encourages players to murder women for entertainment," and is "grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women."