PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in Secret Shopper Report

July 24, 2008 -

(note: this PTC secret shopper survey is not related to the one conducted by Baltimore's ABC-2 that GamePolitics has reported on over the past couple of days)

Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued a secret shopper report in which video game retailers fared noticeably worse than in results issued by the Federal Trade Commission in April.

Overall, the PTC claims that game retailers sold M-rated titles to underage buyers 36% of the time. As reported by GamePolitics, the FTC's secret shoppers succeeded in buying M-rated games at only a 20% rate.

As in the the FTC study, GameStop and Best Buy did very well, according to the PTC. Both retailers sold to underage buyers just 8% of the time. Circuit City (60%), K-Mart (50%), Hollywood Video (50%) and various local and regional stores (47%) compiled the worst results.

PTC president Tim Winter (left) was harshly critical of the video game industry in the PTC's press release:

...a disturbing percentage of video game retailers are failing to prevent America’s children from purchasing violent and sexually graphic video games.  Any failure rate is problematic, but the failure rate we’re seeing is downright pathetic.  Similar to age restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other products that are potentially harmful to children, parents deserve a reasonable expectation that age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level.

 

It is outrageous that retailers are not exercising greater responsibility, and even more absurd that there are no meaningful consequences for those retailers who ignore their industry’s own age restriction policies... 

 

The video game industry would have us believe that the 1/5 failure rate as reported by the FTC is acceptable and that parents need not worry.  Our analysis shows a 1/3 failure rate.  Perhaps the retailers felt the pressure was off after the FTC’s report was published... While we applaud Game Stop and Best Buy for their commitment to abide by their corporate age restriction policies, the other retailers should be ashamed and must act immediately to improve.

Winter also used the report as a platform to support new legislation introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). The bill targets video game ratings. GamePolitics coverage of the bill is upcoming.

Here is the data on various retailers as issued by the PTC (updated, as Blockbuster was left off of their original version):

 

M-RATED VIDEO GAMES
PTC Results (July 2008)
CHAIN
# of Stores
% Able to Purchase
Game Stop
12
8%
Wal-Mart
13
38%
Best Buy
12
8%
Toys “R” Us
5
40%
Blockbuster
11
36%
Target
17
41%
Kmart
4
50%
Circuit City
10
60%
Hollywood Video
2
50%
Various Local & Regional Stores
15
47%


 


Comments

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

IMO it would depend on the kids in question. Personally, I really don't see a problem with the vast majority of aged 14+ high school teenagers playing "M" rated video games. On the other hand though an 8 year old young child probably should not be playing games like Manhunt or the GTA series.

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

Because its easy to see that some games are simply not meant for kids. Sure, its the parents responsibility to pay attention to what their kids are doing, but at the same time its always a good move to actually try and help parents do that voluntarily.

As an example, there's absolutely nothing dangerous about watching R or NC-17 rated movies, but I'll bet you won't see too many 12 year olds buying tickets for one themselves because they'll be stopped by any employee with a brain. I can guarantee you that if movie theaters always let kids into those movies there would be a pretty big uproar about it and legislators would start drafting bills to make it governmentally regulated as well. So long as we stick to, and enforce, a voluntary system there isn't a leg for legislators to stand on when it comes to trying to regulate sales. If we didn't have that voluntary system, they could just shout that the industry doesn't care and it will make their "for the children" argument even stronger. And the stronger that "for the children" argument is, the less likely that it will get struck down and unconstitutional. Just look at porn. Its not harmful either and should be protected by free speech, but its governmentally regulated because they had a strong "for the children" argument to base their laws on.

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

Well written.  I know most of us HERE see through the "For the children" thing.  It's so sad that people are willing to lay down their liberties to this quote made so many times by politicians.  Same with the word "terrorist".  If they could squeeze that in there somewhere I bet they would do that as well.  Ha...I can see it now "Al Queda is now terrorizing our country by selling M rated games to kids"  OH MY GOD! NOOOOO!!!  Please big brother! Regulate me more!

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

Circut city is slowly going down hill. They fired most of their higher paid sales people who were actually competent, and its been downhill from there.

Best buy is kicking their ass across the board.

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

Did the study cover R rated movies?
Probably not.

Thank you smart people!
You are saving us all with your Parental Controls.
Speaking of.. Video game consoles have those. Term them on parents.  That is something your DVD player probably doesnt have.

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

Actually DVD players do have parental controls, the exact same as the game consoles.  Where do you think they took the idea from?  They had to integrate the parental controls into the PS2 & Xbox due to DVD playback ability.

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

I'm a little uncomfortable with starting the, "It's okay for us to do this because everyone else is screwing up worse," argument.  Regardless of how poorly other industries enforce their rules, it begins to sound like finger-pointing and deflection to say we should only rise to the level of other people's incompetence.

Let's focus on the offending retailers and get them to stop giving jerks like this so much ammunition in the first place (using legal, constitutional methods that is).

Re: PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in

But majority of their outrage stems from what it could DO TO children, not the content itself.  Talk to one of these people and you'll find they don't think any books should be banned from children.  Mention American Psycho and they talk about the redeeming value of using imagination to construct a story.  Reading, no matter what the content, is largely viewed as a consequenceless activity for people of any age.  The reason why I mention American Psycho is because of the content itself.  Gaming never has and likely never will have any scenes where someone has sex with a severed head.  Not gonna happen.  Yet despite this, they'll fight tooth and nail to protect their children from two boys kissing in Bully but whatever they read is harmless... yeah.

The entire arguement is based upon a social normality inflicted by luddites who can't figure out the controls for Halo so it's frightening and terrifying and obviously the cause of youth violence on the rise even though, in reality, it's in decline (which is actually a HUGE suprise given the economies status).  In  a perfect world, we would have parents that actually parent.  The idea of sales restrictions on media on any form to accomidate parental unwillingness to get involved with their child's life is the real problem to me.  Here I am, 32 years old, and being held up at a self-scan needing to show ID before I can buy a $10 M rated game all because Soccer Momthra can't be bothered to look at the crap Billy Genericallystupidson does in his free time.  It's too hard for her, so I have to suffer?

Therein lies the problem at it's core.  These reports shouldn't MAKE news, the ESRB adherence shouldn't be a hot topic.  Parents should be parents.

 
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