Take-Two Calls Off the Manhunt

Diehard gamers who were anxious to see why Manhunt 2 became the first video game to be banned in Britain will have to wait. Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) announced that it is suspending the stateside release of the violent game.

Take-Two? Retreating? That's absurd. The game publisher sticks to notoriety like peanut butter on banana cream. The old Take-Two would have made the most of the headline-hogging spotlight, peddling the game at the corner out of brown paper bags if it had to.

The new Take-Two is showing a surprising crust of restraint, even as its developers continue to push the envelope.

Then again, maybe Take-Two's developers have been marinating in the gray areas for so long that they forgot where the lines were originally drawn. The Entertainment Software Rating Board was already set to slap an AO -- Adults Rating -- on the title. Even the controversial Grand Theft Auto games got away with the tamer Mature tag.

AO is a distribution killer. You can kiss Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) racks goodbye. Don't even think about rentals at Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI  ) . Oh, and that's if a kid-friendly Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) and a shell-shocked Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) would even stomach the game on their platforms in the first place.

The easy fix would have been to appeal to the ratings board, doing what was necessary to dumb the nastiness down to a Mature rating. That may still happen. One would think that all of the time and money invested in a game that was essentially complete isn't about to be squandered. However, the suspension leaves shareholders with little choice but to put even greater weight on October's release of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Thankfully, that's the kind of franchise that can shoulder the burden. It is so popular that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is paying $50 million for a pair of exclusive downloadable episodes for the Xbox 360 to be released next year.

That may take the sting out of the latest suspension, rendering it as little more than one more notorious notch in the publisher's randy bedpost, but it's going to be a long wait between now and October.

Or as Green Day sings, wake me up when September ends.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has played a few of the Grand Theft Auto games, though he's never been much of a carjacker. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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