Grand Theft Auto V banned in Australian stores

The latest version of ultra-violent video game Grand Theft Auto has been banned by two major retailers, just as the Christmas sales begin.

Australian chains Kmart and Target have pulled Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves, after an online petition criticizing the graphic violence against women depicted in the game generated over 46,000 signatures.

Leon Neal | AFP | Getty Images

Target Australia said it had pulled the game in response to "the majority view of our customers", a press release on Wednesday.

The main image that disturbed viewers was that of an ax hovering over a dead women, which has become a talking point on Twitter.


In the same press release, Target defended its policy of selling violent games like Grand Theft Auto — which is known for its guns, girls and fast cars.

"While these products often contain imagery that some customers find offensive, in the vast majority of cases, we believe they are appropriate products for us to sell to adult customers," said Target's general manager of corporate affairs in Australia, Jim Cooper.

The Grand Theft Auto franchise began in 1997. Grand Theft Auto V was recently released on Xbox One and Playstation 4, although it originally came out late last year on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

According to the Entertainment Retailers Association, Grand Theft Auto V was the top-selling video game and entertainment product in the U.K. last year, beating favorites FIFA 14 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Read MoreHot new video games to shine this holiday season

Fans of the game were unimpressed by the ban, which could potentially encourage other retailers to drop the product. They have started their own petition on Change.org asking for the game to be reinstated, which has received around 7,500 signatures. Petitioners say that the "the R18+ rating is there for a reason" and that men as well as women are targeted in the game.