Video-game publisher Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO) has done it again.
The company, which has come under fire in the past for offensive content in its games, is now testing the taste barrier with its latest sports video game, All-Pro Football 2K8, which features O.J. Simpson, unquestionably America's most infamous athlete.
Game Trailers, a division of Viacom's ( VIA) MTV Networks, publishes video game trailers, previews, reviews from all publishers. The video clip represents an externally created scenario of possible outcomes if the Simpson character plays a game for the Assassins team, but wasn't generated by Take-Two. The decision of Take-Two's 2K Sports label to include Simpson in the game, despite his past, could possibly be defended, considering his place in football history. But's it's unclear why the company would use a mascot that had the potential to play on Simpson's notoriety as the accused in the 1994 murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Simpson was acquitted of the murders in 1995; two years later, a civil jury found him liable for the wrongful death of Goldman. 2K Sports' decision leaves the company open to accusations of bad taste, but, at its worst, it suggests a comfort level with Simpson's past to profit and promote a video game that many parents would likely buy as a normal sports-game purchase. All-Pro Football 2K8 features 240 of football's best players, including legends such as Joe Montana and Walter Payton, and is rated 'E10+' by the industry's Entertainment Software Ratings board, which means it's suitable for ages 10 and older. The game was released Tuesday. Take-Two declined to answer specific questions relating to whether Simpson approved the use of the mascot in the game. But a company spokesperson forwarded a statement saying that the knifelike motion from the mascot is "not specifically associated with O.J. Simpson, and the game does not promote any such connection." Fred Goldman, father of Ron Goldman who was killed along with Simpson's wife, Nicole Brown, through his lawyer David Cook declined to comment on the game. "This whole thing is just beyond any comment and shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone," said Cook. "As to whether Mr. Simpson is entitled to participate in any revenue stream based on the video and other rights, this matter is being studied," he said. Take-Two also declined to reveal how much it has paid Simpson for the right to use his likeness in the game. But a video-game industry source estimates Take-Two could have paid Simpson anywhere between $50,000 and $125,000. Shares of Take-Two closed Friday down 38 cents, or 1.8%, to $20.05.
This is hardly the first time that Take-Two has faced extensive criticism for poor judgment. Last month, the company's game, Manhunt 2, was
denied a rating by the British Board of Film Certification because of its violent content. Take-Two has suspended the game and has not indicated when it will release it again. In 2005, the discovery of racy content in another Take-Two games, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, had many retailers pulling the games off shelves until the company removed the offending portions of the game.