Over the past week both Kmart and Target in Australia removed GTA V from their shelves in response to a petition launched by a group of former sex workers slamming the game for “encouraging players to commit sexual violence and kill women and calling for retailers to stop selling it.” As most gamers know, its not the first time games have been banned in Australia however it’s interesting as this is the first time a retailer has taken the initiative and not the classification board that has banned sales of the game. Was Target and Kmart right to ban the game? Hopefully this article will argue well enough that this was not a very good move not even from the retailer’s perspective. Here are the reasons why.
1. Firstly as a retailer, Target and Kmart have a right to sell products that they deem appropriate to their audience. Certainly the average Kmart shopper isn’t going to find adult toys or weapons or any other offensive material there. However given that the petition represented just 0.1% total of the number of copies of the game sold, should retailers really be taking a political stance on products? This just opens a massive can of worms to any products people find offensive in Kmart. Heck, there will be petitions to stop Australian Flags or Chainsaws or Cigarettes or whatever people find offensive at that particular point in time. There will always be video games, and video games will always exhibit characters that need to ‘defeat’ the enemy in one way or another. Even Mario needs to stomp on his enemies and he throws fireballs! It’s also inevitable that as computers get faster and better, they will edge closer to becoming more photorealistic. Should we ban all violent games? No, as a society we need to teach our kids right from wrong. Banning games is just the lazy way out.
2. Games will always be available and banning them just reduces the retailers profit line. From a purely business perspective, Kmart and Target are silly to ban what might be one of the best selling lines of console software. If you look at GTA V 34 million copies have been sold already, thats at least 1 million sold in Australia alone, a conservative estimate. At $70 each, you’re looking at $70million added to the bottom line from a single item. So for Kmart and Target to effectively give up all their sales to Big W and JB Hifi is just not a very smart move from a business viewpoint. If you’re offended just don’t buy the game yourself. It’s that simple.
3. Banning games just means people will find other means to acquire the product. In the digital age, almost everything is readily available with a bit of searching. Whether you buy it overseas on an online store or you download a ‘backup’ copy, if a user really wants something they’ll find a way to get it, and a lot of the times it will be through other ‘illegal’ means. Once users find out how simple it is to pirate games, its awfully hard to break that trend and have the user pay for games again. And if the censorship board is going to ban or censor games, most are just going to get the true version by whatever means necessary.
4. If Kmart and Target really want to do the right thing, they should at least adhere to proper procedure which is that GTA V already has an ‘R’ rating and is not to be sold to minors. Too often, IDs are not checked or retailers do not inform parents buying it, its not a game for children. But it wasn’t ever about selling it to minors, the move to ban GTA V was a pure political statement, a move that really caught the ire of gaming fans.
So for me, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Kmart and Target will ban the game. Sure its not great for the local gaming industry, but there will always be games, whether I have to buy them in Australia or overseas. Not selling GTA V is not the end of the world, though I think its pretty dumb of them to take on the world, a move which doesn’t get them anywhere in the long run and not to mention kills their bottom line. I haven’t purchased GTA V yet, though I imagine that a GTA lite version where you can’t kill women might be in the works, kind of like when they banned GTA III in Australia and re released a toned down version several months later. (I still have the original PAL uncensored version which surely must be worth a lot by now). That version is not for me. I’ll just take my business elsewhere and get the uncensored version. Luckily the PS4 is region free.