The Entertainment Safety Ratings Board (ESRB) has decided to raise the rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from "T" for Teen to "M" for Mature. "The presence of a locked out art-file or 'skin' that, if accessed through a third party modification to the PC version of the game, allows users to play with topless versions of female characters," the ESRB said. The Xbox 360 version currently has no such modification.
Reports of gamer-created mods that allow players to remove clothes from character models and expose female characters' breasts have been floating about for several weeks. With the rating change in effect, the game's content descriptor which currently lists Violence, Gore, Sexual Themes, Language, and Use of Alcohol will now also list Nudity in its list of vices for gamers to be aware of.
Bethesda had this to say in response to the ESRB's re-rating announcement:
The ESRB has revoked their Teen rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the PC and the Xbox 360 and has assigned the game a new rating of Mature. The ESRB reports that this is due to content in the game that was not fully disclosed when rating the game initially. Bethesda, not its co-publisher, developed the game, handled the ratings application before the ESRB, and stands behind it.
Bethesda will promptly implement the ratings change that the ESRB has ordered for Oblivion. We will not contest the ESRB's decision to re-rate the game as Mature, nor will we change the game's content to keep a Teen rating. We believe that this critically acclaimed game is not typical of Mature rated titles, and does not present the central themes of violence that are common to those products.
Bethesda will work with its co-publisher to place new "M" rating stickers on Oblivion packaging now at retail and in warehouses, and will reflect the change in rating on newly manufactured product. No product recall is being directed.
In light of the public comments that are being made about this matter, and to respond to questions we are being asked, we are releasing this statement to be on record about the circumstances giving rise to Oblivion's change in rating.
Bethesda Softworks made what it believes was a full, accurate, and comprehensive submission on Oblivion to the ESRB months before the game's release. Bethesda used the ESRB's application forms and believes it adhered closely to their requirements. Nothing was hidden from the ratings agency. No effort was made by Bethesda to lobby or influence the agency for any particular rating.
The ESRB has concluded that the game deserves a rating of Mature because: 1) partial nudity in the PC version of the game can be created by modders; and 2) the game contains excessive blood and gore that go beyond a Teen rating. The facts are as follows:
There is no nudity in Oblivion without a third party modification. In the PC version of the game only - this doesn't apply to the Xbox 360 version - some modders have used a third party tool to hack into and modify an art archive file to make it possible to create a mesh for a partially nude (topless) female that they add into the game.
Bethesda didn't create a game with nudity and does not intend that nudity appear in Oblivion. There is no nude female character in a section of the game that can be "unlocked." Bethesda can not control tampering with Oblivion by third parties. Bethesda is taking steps to ensure that modders can not continue to hack into Oblivion's art archives to create partially nude figures.
With regard to violence, Bethesda advised the ESRB during the ratings process that violence and blood effects were "frequent" in the game - checking the box on the form that is the maximum warning. We further advised that the game contained occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore. We gave accurate answers and descriptions about the type and frequency of violence that appears in the game. We submitted a 60-page document listing the explicit language, acts, and scenes in the game. Oblivion packaging already contains warnings for "Violence" and "Blood and Gore."
We value the role of the ESRB and believe the rating agency plays a valuable role in regulating our industry. As always, we will continue work in good faith to comply fully with the ESRB's standards and policies.
We remain enormously proud of Oblivion and the standard of excellence in game development it represents. Oblivion is one of the highest rated games of all time and one of the most popular games available on the Xbox 360 and the PC. We greatly appreciate the understanding and support of our fans.