UAE retailers await GTA IV sales decision

Game not banned in UAE, decision pending with National Media Council

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By  Matthew Wade Published  April 30, 2008

The UAE distributor for Rockstar Games, the developer of Grand Theft Auto IV, is in discussions with the National Media Council (NMC) concerning whether the game can be released in this market.

Previously part of the Ministry of Information, the NMC includes a censorship department that is responsible for allowing or blocking the UAE distribution of video games and other media in the Emirates.

At present, the game has not been banned in the UAE, although previous editions of the game were banned in several countries, including the UAE, because of violence and sexual content.

Copies of the long-awaited game, sequel to the controversial GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas, are already available through some online marketplaces, and at duty free outlets across the region, although the game has not been released to general retailers.

A spokesperson for Rockstar's local distributor Red Entertainment Distribution confirmed to Windows Middle East today: "As part of standard practice, we are in discussions with the UAE Ministry of Information regarding the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. This is a standard practice that is followed for all the games that we distribute in the local UAE market, which are passed by them for their approval prior to release in the UAE."

In the meantime, UAE game retailers and media appear confused over whether GTA IV - which was released worldwide to critical acclaim yesterday - will indeed appear in UAE stores, with some retail sources predicting that the game won't be allowed for sale, and others suggesting it will likely appear as grey import in smaller outlets.

Industry analysts predict that the game will sell over six million copies in its first week of sales, netting $400 million, far outstripping the sums made by major Hollywood film launches. Take Two, publisher of the game, stands to add $1 billion to its annual profit from this one game.

Other industry analysts were even more bullish about prospects for the game, with Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter telling Reuters: "So how many will sell in the first week or month or few months? Nine million. That's the number. That's about a 35% attach rate. By year's end, it'll be somewhere between 11 and 13 million because more consoles will be sold before the holidays."

Despite an official verdict on the game's UAE suitability having not yet been made, PS3 versions of Grand Theft Auto IV have already begun appearing on the UAE pages of auction website Souq.com. The title is also available at duty free outlets across the region.

2786 days ago
not important

hey, guys im wondering is it banned or not in the uae? its 5-2-2010

3402 days ago
Ahmed

Dear Matt, Please review some of your statements with my links below: Matt -As per your point, ‘in the UK, and in the USA big retailers were refusing to sell the previous versions of the game’, I don’t have any evidence of this. Ahmed - Best Buy Removes ''Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'' From All Stores http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2005_July_20/ai_n14811122 Matt - Neither do I believe GTA has been banned in Australia. I understand instead that Rockstar Games is editing the game’s content to suit censors there. Ahmed : GTA 3 officially banned in Australia: News - Business - ZDNet .. http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/business/soa/GTA-3-officially-banned-in-Australia/0,139023166,120262360,00.htm BBC NEWS | Technology | GTA sex scandal hits Australia 29 Jul 2005 ... Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, has effectively been banned in ... that the game can no longer be sold, hired or advertised in Australia. ... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4728261.stm Did you have any comments please? Thanks, Ahmed Editors Reply: Hi again Ahmed, With regard the links you posted, my comments were actually purely in relation to GTA4, the newest version of this video game. (Even so, Best Buy which you mentioned is just one of hundreds of retailers in the US, so I don’t think we can really say with any accuracy that access to San Andreas was heavily censored in the States.) Re: Australia banning San Andreas, again my comments were referring solely to GTA4. (Although it may be that GTA4 does end up being blocked in full, rather than ‘edited down’. We’ll have to see!) This is of course also another conversation to be had on the subject you alluded to previously, which is whether video games have a corrupting effect on youths, and thus are to blame for their violent behaviour. I obviously have my views on that (largely along the lines that the parents play a much more defining role), but I would prefer that this message section doesn’t become purely a discussion between us two. I would therefore very much like to hear from other readers. Anyone?

3403 days ago
Ahmed

I am surprised how and why would your respectable publication promote the notorious game which has sex, drugs, and extreme violence themes. In the UK, and in the the USA big retailers were refusing to sell the previous versions of the game, it was banned in Australia, there were court cases where teenagers committed violent crimes after playing the game. Could Matthew Wade please explain why would he want to see the game selling in the UAE? And it would be very interesting to hear the comment from RED Distribution why would they want to sell the game in the UAE? I can recall that previous versions of the game supplied by RED Distributon were removed from the retailers by the National Media Council of the UAE. Editors Reply: You raise some interesting points, so I thought it best to respond directly and clarify our position. Your first point is one I expect we will disagree on, as I don’t regard writing about an issue (in this case GTA4) - that many Windows Middle East readers will be interested in - as promoting GTA4. Please note here, at no point in the text did we offer any comment on whether the game was enjoyable or a product that readers should aspire to purchase. As always with our news stories, we attempted to be 100% factual; simply informing our readers of the state of play. If your point is that we shouldn’t mention anything controversial in case this is viewed as promotional, I disagree with that also, as I believe our readers have the intelligence to understand what is a factual news story and what is a distinct product recommendation (which a positive product review in Windows would represent). As per your point, ‘in the UK, and in the USA big retailers were refusing to sell the previous versions of the game’, I don’t have any evidence of this. All versions of GTA – including GTA4 - are available in many large retail stores, as well as on the relevant country sites of Amazon online. That said, the game is sold with an R18 rating, meaning it’s for adults only. Which is as it should be, as you are right – the game’s content is certainly not suitable for minors. Neither do I believe GTA has been banned in Australia. I understand instead that Rockstar Games is editing the game’s content to suit censors there. I am not sure such an approach would work in the UAE, due to the relatively small market here (i.e. would Rockstar bother going to so much trouble for a relatively low number of sales?) See my sources here: http://gamer.blorge.com/2008/04/04/australia-gets-edited-version-of-gta-4/ and here - http://blogs.smh.com.au/screenplay/archives/017808.html As for gamers committing violent crimes after playing the game, this is of course a ‘red-hot’ issue in the gaming world and wider society. For a start, as mentioned, in countries where the game is sold it has ‘ratings’ shown on the box, which means it shouldn’t be sold to teenagers at all. If it is, that’s a retailer issue and such stores should be brought to task as per the letter of the law. I don’t think the game developer can be blamed for that. Re: Red Entertainment, I cannot speak for that company but I have asked its spokesperson to respond. As mentioned in the original news article, the company has requested feedback from the National Media Council of the UAE about whether the game should be sold in the UAE or not. If the Council says the game cannot be sold in stores here, then I am positive that Red will abide by that decision and not sell it. If you have any further comment or thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them. Appreciate the feedback, thanks. Matt Wade.

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