Out of curiousity - are there any themes/actions possible/depictions in a game that you (vous. Everyone in this thread) flat out think shouldn't be sold? Not age restricted or similar, just outright banned? Anything GTAV could have contained that would make this a reasonable step?
There are many things that can turn me off of a game and make me decide not to buy it, but assuming the game itself is mechanically competent (doesn't constantly freeze or break, has few noticeable glitches, runs at a decent framerate, etc), I don't think there's any content that could make it unsellable to people. As Caehlim mentioned, there's a few exceptions if it involves real people, of course.
My response to your follow-up would pretty much echo Caehlim's.
That's interesting, and not a thought I'd considered - that you could end up creating a de facto ban on the product. Hmmmm. Quite taken with that.
Could it not be argued that you have a similar role as a consumer though? That if few enough people buy a product you're creating a de facto ban on it because stores will stop selling it? Sure, your influence as a consumer is way less than as an owner, but the principle seems the same at first glance.
Honestly, the "de facto ban" is the main reason why I wanted to make this thread in the first place. No, Target refusing to sell it doesn't make it a ban in all of Australia, but the initial petition to Target made it pretty clear that their goal was to get other stores to follow suit, which would end up in a ban of the game.
Regardless, the difference between a store not selling it and an individual not buying it is that, on an individual level, each person gets to make their own decision on whether to buy the game, and even if the game offends some people - heck, even if it offends a majority of people - it's possible to survive and exist because the section of people that aren't offended and decide to buy it are enough to sustain it. When it happens on the store level however, now everyone, whether they want to buy the game or not, doesn't buy it, which takes away from the individual's ability to support something that not many people support.
Also, note that if this becomes widespread practice, it can lead to game developers self-censoring their games in order to meet some sort of "political correctness guideline", with the fear that if they go too far out of bounds, they don't sell the game, not because there's no interest in the game but because they don't have any one to sell their game through. Anyone concerned with the possibility of games as art (or any medium as art, really) should be very aware that encouraging self-censorship is a sure way to kill off the artistic quality of games. Art, after all, needs to have the option to be offensive and challenge our perceptions and thoughts.
Niche markets require a certain type of product though. A title like GTAV costs millions to develop, it can't be a niche market. Either it sells widely or it doesn't exist as it can't recoup its costs.
But yeah, I'm actually kinda getting at the flip side of boycotts. Caehlim doesn't want to buy a product. Neither do some other people. None of them really make a fuss or organise anything, they just quietly carry on with their lives sans product. The product is unpopular, so is no longer sold. That means the people who did want to buy it can't (and also reduces the chances of similar products being developed). If there is a civic duty to avoid creating a de facto ban as a business owner, does that trickle downwards to a consumer? I'm still noodling through this myself but it seems like:
If it does, we should, morally, buy everything.
If it doesn't why not? What is the difference between a private individual and a business owner that gives different moral standards to their actions?
The causation is more obvious for a business owner, sure, and they have a larger effect. But "I only do a little bit of wrong, and you have to look hard to even see it" is shaky ground. I dunno. Intuitively I think there is a difference, but I'm struggling to see exactly what it is.
Sadly, this is simply because no matter how artistic your work is, someone still needs to pay rent and buy food. Some countries have created funds to give to movie makers so that they can make movies without worrying about making a movie with enough widespread appeal to be profitable, because they want to encourage the growth of their culture through art, and I could easily see a country deciding to do the same for video games at some point down the line (especially with how easy it's becoming to make a game on your own).
Regardless, the difference in the examples you're giving are still different, because a single person not wanting to buy a game does not prevent anyone else from buying it, while a store deciding not to sell a game does prevent everyone from buying it.
There might also be something to be said about the decision to pull the game due to the outcry of a vocal minority, while the silent majority are happy letting the game exist or buying it.