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GTA maker coughs up $20m for 'hot coffee' sex

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Take-Two Interactive will shuffle $20 million out the door to make its "hot coffee" headaches go away.

The game publisher said Wednesday it has settled a longstanding class-action shareholder lawsuit over an infamous sex scene squirreled away in the code of Grand Theft Auto: San Andres. Take-Two will stuff $20,115,000 into a settlement fund for members of the class-action suit. The company's insurance carriers will pay $15,200,000 of the settlement, and Take-Two will foot the rest.

The lawsuit stems from a normally inaccessible sex minigame in GTA:SA that's initiated when the game's protagonist is invited into his girlfriend's house for a cup of "hot coffee." Said offer of joe inevitably leads to a somewhat explicit virtual bootknocking, which beget several years of angry parents, grandstanding politicians, and disgruntled shareholders.

While the sex minigame itself cannot be activated in the game proper, a hack to unlock the scene was discovered and circulated on the net in the summer of 2005, nearly a year after the game was released. When word of the blue content spread, Take-Two first claimed it was created entirely by hackers – only later to admit the scene had inadvertently been left in the game's code by its developers at Rockstar Games.

The subsequent uproar over a sex scene (hidden within the notoriously violent video game) led to the Entertainment Software Rating Board revoking the game's "M for Mature" rating and slapping it with an "Adults Only" score – a kiss of death in the US market. The game watchdog then declared game makers would henceforth be required to document all hidden and inaccessible content during the ratings process.

Take-Two then spent tens of millions of dollars pulling existing copies off store shelves and replacing them with "hot coffee"-free versions. The recall loss lead to Take-Two's stock plunging, prompting investors to sue over the company's questionable statements made during the outbreak of the controversy.

"We are pleased to have reached this settlement, which represents another important step forward for the Company," said Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick, in a statement.

In addition to more class-action lawsuits hounding Take-Two to this day, the "hot coffee" scandal also served as a platform for politicians like Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman to propose legislation that would regulate the sale of mature games to minors.

So remember, kids: Always stick to nicking cars and popping caps in innocent pedestrians. Sex is about $20m too expensive. ®

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