BREAKING - FTC Study Shows Massive Improvement in Video Game Rating Enforcement

May 8, 2008 -

The results of the Federal Trade Commission's latest research into the marketing of violent entertainment to children is a major win for the video game industry.

Just-released numbers show that the FTC's underage secret shoppers were only able to purchase M-rated games 20% of the time, a massive improvement over last year's 42% success rate.

Amid heightened parental concerns following last week's high-profile release of Grand Theft AUto IV, the news couldn't come at a better time for the video game biz.

DVD sellers, on the other hand were spanked by the FTC for selling R-rated and unrated movies to underage buyers about half of the time. Theaters allowed the FTC's secret shoppers into R-rated movies 35% of the time, making the game industry's results all the more impressive.

New in this year's report are individual ratings for retailers. The FTC results indicate that GameStop is doing the best job of retail ratings enforcement, turning away 94% of underage buyers. Wal-Mart and Best Buy scored high marks as well, with 82% and 80% turn-away rates, respectively.

Listed below are the FTC's video game secret shopper results, listed by retailer (number indicated is successful purchases of M-rated games by underage buyers):
 

Game Stop/EB Games - 6%
Wal-Mart - 18%
Best Buy - 20%
Toys R Us - 27%
Target - 29%
Kmart - 31%
Circuit City - 38%
Hollywood Video - 40%


A graph posted on the FTC website (and seen at left) traces a steep decline in underage sales since 2000, when secret shoppers were successful 85% of the time.

 We'll offer reactions from the video game industry and other stakeholders as we receive them.

Comments

Nightwng2000's world:

:: John Bruce hands copy of GTA IV with receipt to DA, smiling goofishly and smugly. ::

John Bruce: See! See! They sold this game to my son! See! See!

:: Nightwng2000 hands to DA printed copy of FTC report for last 8 years showing constant improvement. Just stands and smiles. ::

:: DA hands John Bruce game back, then goes back to more important work. ::

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

It is possible Doctor Proctor, and when one considers it's not against the law to sell the game to a kid it's easy to see some upper management saying "Sell it to everyone who wants it, refuse no sales" especially on a popular item. Not that it isn't morally wrong to sell GTA4 to a kid to make a quick buck, it's just not illegal.

I would love for your world to happen nightwng2000, especially on video and posted to youtube.

It's a great victory nonetheless, even if our game hating enemies won't shut their pie-hole considering the improvement. They won't go away, but even more certainly, we won't disappear as well, no matter how much they pray to jesus that we turn into fish (Jeff Dunham reference here :P).

Sorry, but does "42% success rate" mean 42% were carded or 42% were able to buy the game?

/b

Where do you see success rate mentioned? I looked over the link and don't see it >.>

In all though I can guess if success rate has been dropping over the years it means "was able to buy item" or if it's going up it means "was carded and stopped."

This isn't going to change anyone's opinion.

Plus, many of the anti-games people want them banned outright for fear a child will get their hands on dad's copy...

[JT]LIES DAMNED LIES! The videogame industry (especially Take-Two those crafty criminal porno making bastards) is clearly in cahoots with the FTC to peddle this filth to our children! It's a conspiracy I tells you! I'll get you Take-Two and your little Blank Rome too!!!!![/JT]

Can't we all find a way to blame this on George W. Bush

*agrees with Ix*

If you look at the full chart that includes other media, you'll see that M-rated games have consistently been harder to buy than R or Unrated DVDs and PAL music for the past three years. I don't think this report will change anything. Games are subject to different standards because they're the favorite devil right now.

@ Beemoh

The 42% is the 'success' rate that kids were able to buy the game. It is a failure on the side of the game industry. So the industry had a 42% failure rate in preventing sales to minors.

On the flip side, kids had a 58% 'failure' rate when trying to purchase M rated games. The industry had a 58% success rate in preventing sales to minors.

Now change those figures to 20% and 80% for this years stats.

Even though it pains us, the burden of keeping the rating system voluntary and fair is with the retailers. This is excellent news from the front lines!

Bungles,

Why would we "blame" someone with good news? The rate of kids getting material they shouldn't has been declining with the biggest decline being M-rated video games. The study disproves one of the points a lot of critics and anti-game people bring up about kids having such easy access to M-rated games, as the truth is shown that M-rated games are the hardest form of mature content for kids to get.

Thanks GamePolitics! Now I know which store to send my underage kid to buy Grand Theft Auto with the highest probability for success! Hollywood Video, prepare to recieve a sting of a lifetime. Then I'm going to sue you for not enforcing your own voluntary rules

@beemoh

Just-released numbers show that the FTC’s underage secret shoppers were only able to purchase M-rated games 20% of the time, a massive improvement over last year’s 42% success rate.


So "success rate" means that underage shoppers were successful in purchasing something M-rated.

So by the most recent report, 80% of the time, stores refused to sell M-rated games to minors under 17.

But won't somebody

IN YOUR FACE, JOHN BRUCE "JACK" THOMPSON!!! IN YOUR FUCKING FACE!!!

Well, this is nice and all but these types of studies just don't tell the real story.

Why?

Because they are not looking at real-world situations. This data is collected by providing a teenager (13 -16) with money, transportation, and specific instructions to buy an M-rated game and seeing how successful they are. As such, it’s difficult to say how big of a problem sales of M-rated games to minors really is.

What would be really telling is an FTC study on how often sales of M-rated games to minors actually happens in the real world. Just stake out a bunch of retailers and observe how often this happens over the course of a month.

Those are the numbers I'd like to see.


Andrew Eisen

I hate you so much gamestop....why must you give me a reason to root for you?!

ARGH >:(

Retailers are perhaps becoming more aware that in the long run their bottom lines benefit from proper enforcement. Voluntary self-censorship, if done properly, means the government has no reason to impose its own, far stricter codes. As long as stores enforce ESRB ratings to a satisfactory degree, the government doesn't have a reason to enact laws. And efforts to do so are more likely to fail - speech controls must take the least invasive form, and effective self-controls are less invasive than government oversight.
ESRB enforcement means no legislation. And legislation would be bad - stores don't want to be on the hook for huge fines or lose out on sales because of the government morality police.

@hellscaper
I hate you so much gamestop…

Hate EB Games instead. They ripped my brother off concerning headphones coming with a copy of... I think it was Battlefield 2 but I forget...

EDIT: Whoops, forgot to close the BlockQuote.

@Andrew Eisen

Can you explain your point further? As I read the study, it's looking at exactly what you say you'd like to see: "minor walks into store with money, walks out with game". Is your only quibble the fact that the FTC is supplying the minors? The store in question doesn't know where the minor comes from.

How do you guys do that with the quotes?



Will it work?

Text


That's how, but something's f***ed up.

@Andrew Eisen

But it does, at least, give us something to use temporarily. I'd take that over nothing.

jkk;'sd'kljasjklsaglk;adjlasd;oszj;sdjvo;sjAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!


DENNIS!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!

HA HA! That movie theater chain that boasts 80% Able to Purchase R rated tickets, I used to work for them. K'sotes FTW!

MAKE IT STOP!!!


THIS MUST END!!!

IT HAS TO!!!

Attack of the italics!

Too bad this won't make any difference.

Whew! Thank God it's over!

I hope that this works and stops the italics, but I have little hope that someone else hasn't already tried this.

Anyways, Andrew Eisen, how do you propose the stake out actually tells when an underage kid gets sold a game? they can't go up and ask him as they see him exit the store or else the news could spread and get back to the store that they're being investigated. In it's current form the study is basically as accurate as can be obtained. Not that it's perfect, there's just no feasable way to do it better.

@ Jabrwock: That makes sense. Thanks. :D


I've bought M-rated games from a Sears several times and they never ID-checked. Sears has a small game selection anyways, but I go because it's only 2 blocks away, closer than any shop that sells games around here.

Yet more proof that anti-game bills aren't about protecting anyone.

It worked, Ix. Somehow I did it. I wish I knew how it even happened, so I know not to do it again.

I closed the italix. I added a second closing tag for good measure, seemed to break out of it completely.

Kamendae,

That’s my quibble. My position is that were it not for the FTC, most of these kids wouldn’t have had the inclination, transportation, or money to try to buy an M-rated game.

Ix,

Even if you left the kids alone as they exited the store you could still make a note of how many are ID’d and how many of those are refused a sale. Besides, I’d argue that you can identify a minor pretty reliably without asking their age. Also, retailers aren’t stupid, they know when the FTC stings are done so hearing that someone is auditing their store probably wouldn’t make that big a difference. I imagine stores are on their best behavior during the months these stings are conducted anyway.

So whether the FTC (or whatever group) wanted to have a guy in the store observing, a guy outside interviewing customers, or a guy looking at surveillance footage and store receipts, I just want to know how often a minor attempting to buy an M-rated game in the real world actually happens.

Because I don’t believe it’s that common in the fist place.


Andrew Eisen

I don't think it was anything you did, looking at the html I see some really odd stuff like doubling of tags all over the place down the whole area with the italic problem. A lot of the double tags just have blank space between them too. Near as I can tell the gamepolitcs server hardware, server OS, database, or general blogging software just had a glitch and it could've happened to anyone.

I'd say the best protection against it is to go out and buy a good classic used game (still in working condition) as often as you can, it probably won't prevent it from happening again but at least you'll have a collection of good classic games to play.

The ESRB system isn't working how?

Also, before he has a chance to say it, I doubt the FTC was bribed.

B-But...This is all a lie! A scandal! The FTC is in cahoots with T2 and R*! A lie I tell ya! A LIE!!!



Well, anyway...It's a shame that these facts will not matter. It's so easy to get your way as a politic or one of these pundits, just mention something regarding "children" and "safety" then sprinkle a bit of your religion on it and BAM! Insta-win.

@Andrew,

That does assume that someone in the lot can actually see the registers, something that's not the case for about 85% of the stores around where I live (and on the 15% you can generally only see 1-3 registers). You'd also be surprised at how young some people can look or how old others can. I know someone who hasn't been carded to go into bars ever, he's only 25 now (at least locally you're supposed to be carded unless you appear to be over 30). On the other hand I have been carded and told "you can buy this game if your mommy says it's ok" for a T-rated game after turning 21. I've known middle school students my youngest brother was friends with at the time that looked older than me when I was 18, now they can pass off as being about 23-25 years old.

Getting a count of attempts to buy M-rated games by underage people is going to be nearly impossible to accurately do by sight, only when someone gets stopped can you know that they're underage.

All right. I'm only going to say this once.

BOOYA.

Got that kids, if you want M rated games ---->> Hollywood Video!

Ix,

We could argue procedure ‘til the cows come home but at the end of the day, it’s the FTC’s job to figure out how to do this effectively.

Do you agree that it would be more valuable to determine how often kids are actually buying or attempting to buy M-rated games in the real world as opposed to how successful a minor is in a completely manufactured situation?


Andrew Eisen

@Andrew,

I fully agree that it'd valuable. I think the most valuable information would be what you can extract from having the number of attempts and a reliable study of the success percent of those attempts. I just don't think it would be possible to accurately study the number of attempts, not that I'm happy with that, I'd love for the FTC to come up with something successful at getting that number down. I also don't agree that it's manufactured, it can't be undercover if the FTC just hits the same places at about the same time of year. Looking at the years on the chart it looks like they almost randomly strike to keep retailers from being able to predict when to seriously start carding too. I don't think the FTC would make such a serious error in a study as to let it's undercover shopping attempts be predictable, at the least if anyone who's anti-games found this out and could prove it then the FTC (or at least it's researchers) would probably be in some trouble for spending time and money on the study and the anti-game person would have a major reputation boost. Even JT could gain some credibility if he could honestly disprove the study.

Why in the hell don't movies have to go through this?
 
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