GTA 5 "Violence Against Women" Criticisms Spurs Ban by Australian Retailer

Eddie Makuch

[UPDATE] Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has released a statement regarding GTA V's ban from Target Australia. You can see his full statement below.

"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. 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."

The original story is below.

Target Australia announced Wednesday that it will stop selling Grand Theft Auto V in its stores due to feedback from consumers about the game's "depictions of violence against women."

In a public statement, Target corporate affairs manager Jim Cooper said the company reached the decision following "extensive community and customer concern about the game."

Cooper said Target Australia has been in communication with "many" customers in recent days about GTA V's content. "There is a significant level of concern about the game's content," he said.

At the same time, Cooper said shoppers have spoken out to say Target Australia should continue to sell the game. "We respect their perspective on the issue," Cooper said. "However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA V is in line with the majority view of our customers."

GTA V carries an R18 rating in Australia. Other R-rated DVDs and games will continue to be sold at Target Australia. Cooper explained why GTA V is being singled out with the following statement:

"While these products often contain imagery that some customers find offensive, in the vast majority of cases, we believe they are appropriate products for us to sell to adult customers," he said. "However, in the case of GTA V, we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell."

Cooper did not call out any specific GTA V scenes that spurred his company to remove the game from sale in the country. The game has been available for purchase in Australia since September 2013, though a new version of the game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was released less than a month ago.

We've followed up with Target's North American team to see if this decision will impact the game's availability in the United States.

Today's decision comes after an Australian Change.org petition called on Target to block GTA V from sale in Australia, citing concerns about the game's violence.

"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," reads a line from the campaign, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures to date.

For now, the GTA V ban in Australia is limited to Target Australia. We have reached out to GTA V parent publisher Take-Two Interactive for comment.

Concerns regarding the violent nature of Grand Theft Auto games are nothing new. Most recently, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick responded to a mainstream media reporter who asked if it was true that GTA V players can have sex with a prostitute and then kill her.

Zelnick's response was that GTA V is a work of art--and it may not always be pretty. "This is a criminal setting; it's a gritty underworld; it is art," he said. "And I embrace that art. And it's beautiful art. But it is gritty."

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