Australian retailers the Target of gamers’ ire after GTA V pulled from shelves

4 Dec 2014

Target Australia’s decision – and latterly Kmart’s similar move – to pull the latest Grand Theft Auto video game from its shelves has been criticised by gamers in the country.

Following “extensive” concern about the R-rated game, Target removed Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) from the shelves because of its “depictions of violence against women”.

Having received feedback both for and against the store stocking the game, Jim Cooper, GM of corporate affairs, made the decision “in line with the majority view of our customers”. Target continues to sell other R-rated DVDs and games.

A petition against Target’s stocking of the video game has garnered more than 45,000 signatures, claiming GTA 5 “encourages players to murder women for entertainment. 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”.

Target heeded the mood, but has now alienated those in favour of the game that was released as long ago as September 2013. An opposing petition has even been set up in response.

The Grand Theft Auto series has proved remarkably popular’s coverage of the story has been interesting, as it has become a proxy message board for those for and against the campaign. Indeed since its coverage of the petition and subsequent retail moves, has been inundated with comments, “the majority of which supported Target continuing to sell the title”.

“The thing is with GTA 5 you are allowed to kill anyone — women, men, sex workers, police. No one is singled out for persecution or favoured in any way. It’s a game that (if you choose to play a certain way) has very few rules. You don’t have to kill anyone at all unless you want to finish the story mode. A lot of players just have fun stealing cars or even obeying all the rules and working as a taxi driver for hours. It’s all up to the player — the game just gives you choices to make. It’s like if someone left a porn magazine on your desk. You can choose to browse the pages or you could just leave it and read a news website instead,” GamerGirl said on the site.

Misinformed and achieves nothing

IGN, in a lengthy rebuttal of Target’s decision titled Target’s GTA 5 Snub is Misinformed and Achieves Nothing, finds fault with some of the reasoning behind challenging such a game. However, the logic behind the store’s decision-making is sound in a business sense. The game represents just one SKU (stock keeping unit) amid the stores’ multi-faceted retail operation, and removing it wouldn’t make a dent in its revenues.

The store, claims Luke Reilly’s article “has clearly looked at any further revenue it stands to gain from selling a single video game (which, over 12 months on from the release of the game on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and after the initial rush of sales for it on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, will be only a fraction of what the company has already made) and has decided that this figure is worth sacrificing to avoid being perceived by the public to be ignoring such an ostensibly large petition”.

However, claims made by the petition were misinformed, said Reilly. Given that the Classification Board gave the game a R18+ rating clearly shows it is legally permissible.

“Indeed,” said Reilly, “the outbursts of violence that appear to have been the catalyst for this petition are player-created. They’re certainly not related to the progression of the game or, indeed, ‘health points’. To suggest otherwise only contributes to the false impressions non-gamers regularly harbour about video games and is unhelpful.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic