Remember the GTA: San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal? Of course you don’t, you were busy updating your Bebo profile, chatting on MSN messenger, patiently explaining to people why Limewire was so much better than YouTube, and all those other archaic things we used to do. Ah, the heady days of youth.
Rest assured though, Hot Coffee nearly brought the games industry to its knees, and certainly not in a good kind of ‘Thai massage’ way either. A naughty hacker squirreled deep within the game’s code and discovered a desperately unexciting sex-based mini game and produced a patch to unlock it.
At the time, parenting groups, senators and insane soon-to-be-ex lawyers jumped on the scandal and had a field day, but what did the general public really think? Apparently they were the rationally minded ones. A class-action lawsuit sought compensation for all those who were shocked to discover these grotesque digital parodies of the act of love making, but even though the case was won, only 2,676 claims have been filed. Considering the 8.5 million units sold in North America, we can safely call that ‘fuck all’.
The lawyers all now feel decidedly stupid as this essentially shows that they can get all riled up about something incredibly inconsequential, and that may make potential clients think twice before bothering to wave the class-action banner in future. Or, y’know, they are guilty of bringing a meritless suit to trial.
“Am I disappointed? Sure,” said Seth R. Lesser, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. “We can’t guess as to why now, several years later, people care or don’t care. The merits of the case were clear.”
Yep. I think I get it – it is possible to be offended for buying a game, downloading a patch to unlock sexual scenes that were never accessible or even intended to be in the standard over-the-counter content, then watching them. Oh, and then wanting money for it. Clear as mud.
Possibly the fact that a number of years have passed since the case started and the best ‘compensation’ you can hope for is a $35 payout might explain some of the lacklustre uptake.
Rockstar is believed to have lost around $2.5m over the incident, taking into account the legal fees, payouts, charitable donations, production alterations, etc. There’s just no way of knowing how many people bought the game simply to access the scandalous sex scenes after the story broke. GTA IV, however, made over $500m in its first week of sale. Go figure.