UPDATE – Microsoft reps have told Next-Gen the real reason for the Halo 2 Vista delay: partial nudity–specifically someone’s backside in the game’s map editor, the Entertainment Software Rating Board added today.
In an e-mail statement sent to Next-Gen, Microsoft said, “It has come to our attention that an unfortunate, obscure content error which includes partial nudity was included in our initial production of “Halo 2” for Windows Vista. As such, we have updated the initial game packaging at retailers with a label, so customers are aware before purchasing the game. Additionally, we’ve developed an online update which can be downloaded from www.halo2.com to remove the content.
“At Microsoft we take the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) guidelines very seriously and hold ourselves to high standards, with our customers always in mind.”
Sure enough, at halo2.com under the “support” section, there is an update dated 5/22, although it doesn’t explain the contents of the update.
Friday morning, however, the ESRB e-mailed Next-Gen a statement that said a "photograph of an individual showing his bare backside" is accessible within Halo 2 Vista’s exclusive map editor tool. Apparently, it pops up when an ".ass" error occurs (see pic below, via the Halo 2 Vista forums).
Halo 2 is an M-rated game (17 and older). Microsoft informed the ESRB about the content just prior to the game’s shipment to retail earlier this week. In effect, Microsoft has applied a "Partial Nudity" sticker as an additional content descriptor on the initial shipment of Halo 2 for Vista in the US and Canada.
"We have been advised by Microsoft that future runs of the game will be produced without the content in question, thus negating the need for the descriptor to be displayed on those versions," read the ESRB statement. "…ESRB’s job is to ensure that games are appropriately labeled, and that is precisely what we did in this case. We greatly appreciate Microsoft’s cooperation in this matter.”
Microsoft confirmed to Next-Gen yesterday that it had delayed Halo 2 for Vista from this week to next week.
Other companies in the past have come under fire by regulators for allegedly "hidden" mature content within videogames, namely Take-Two and Rockstar for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the corresponding "Hot Coffee" debacle.