FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to Video Game Retailers

April 20, 2011 -

The latest Federal Trade Commission undercover shopper survey found that video game retailers continue to enforce the sale of "M-Rated" games to minors better than any other industry. Overall, sales of R-rated movie tickets, R-rated movie DVDs, unrated DVDs, music CDs carrying a Parental Advisory Label (PAL) that warns of explicit content, and video games rated "M" to minors were on the decline.

"Our undercover shopper survey demonstrates some progress," said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But more needs to be done."

The FTC recruited 13- to 16-year-olds, unaccompanied by a parent, to attempt to buy media content that was not appropriate for their age groups. The undercover secret shopper program ran from November 2010 to January 2011. Teenagers attempted to buy these products from national and regional chain stores and theaters across the United States.

The survey found that music CD retailers lagged far behind movie theaters, as well as movie DVD and video game retailers, in preventing unaccompanied children under the age of 17 from purchasing mature content. Nearly two-thirds of teen shoppers (64 percent) were able to purchase CDs with a PAL label, down from 72 percent in 2009. There was no statistical change in ratings enforcement at the movie box office. One-third of underage shoppers bought a ticket to an R-rated movie, up slightly from 28 percent in 2009.

Retailers of R-rated and unrated DVDs showed improvement in ratings enforcement. Thirty-eight percent of shoppers purchased R-rated DVDs, compared to 54 percent in 2009. Forty-seven percent purchased unrated DVDs, down from 58 percent in 2009.

Video game retailers continued to improve enforcement and were the most effective in turning teen shoppers away who were seeking "M" rated video games. Only 13 percent of teens were able to buy an "M" rated game, compared to 20 percent last time the FTC conducted a secret shopper survey.

Focusing on video games for a moment, the worst retailer in the bunch was Walmart and the best was Target. Walmart had a 20 percent failure rate, followed by Best Buy with 16 percent, Toys R Us and Kmart tied at 10 percent, GameStop at 9 percent and Target at 8 percent.

These findings are certainly bad news for anti-game groups who would like the public to believe that teens have easy access to "Mature" rated content without adult intervention.

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Comments

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

"These findings are certainly bad news for anti-game groups who would like the public to believe that teens have easy access to "Mature" rated content without adult intervention."

You wish.  We all know full well that they will give that 13% figure with absolutely no context, and play it up as if it is huge.  That is, if they even bother using real research and statistics for once.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

The rate of minors getting M-rated games(13%) fell by almost half(down 35%) compared to the last FTC report(20%).

Survey says: One more for the good guys.

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Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

I'm kind of blown away that best buy was worst after walmart, every time I went in there when I was in high school they asked for ID.

-Austin from Oregon

Feel free to check out my blog.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

I'm betting the EMA case had a lot to do with retailers putting out the strongest numbers yet. They want to ensure that voluntary restrictions work to convince the Court that legislation is not necessary.

Of course, I've said it before, let's see how well the retailers do if the Court rules the law unconstitutional and says that violence cannot be restricted.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

Hm.  You think these numbers will affect the ruling?  I'd say it's a little late for that -- though fortunately the numbers last time out were pretty good too.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

I'm more inclined to believe the ruling will affect the numbers. If the court says that restricting sales through legislation is unconstitutional, retailers will not have the incentive to enforce the ratings anymore, since they made that commitment to stave off attempts at regulation.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

Then that's a fool move at it still won't be the last attempt at regulation.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

What I want to know is the age breakdown.  How does the age of the shopper correlate with the refusal of the sale?

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

Seconded.  I'm sure more 16-year-olds got M-rated games than 13-year-olds, but I'd like to see the numbers.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

Here is the link to their summary and press release:

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/04/violentkidsent.shtm

One thing to note is that Gamestop actually got wors this time around. The 2009 report showed kids being able to buy M rated games 5% of the time at Gamestop and 9% of the time in 2010. I wonder if the FTC sent more 16 year olds there this year.

E. Zachary Knight
Divine Knight Gaming

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

Until video games reach 5% or less, anti-game groups will still complain that it's corrupting the "children", even though M rated sale have had a steady decline in sale to minors. And I honestly believe that the anti-game groups will just use the year old data to say 1 in 5 M rated game make it into the hands of minors.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

more like 0%... until then, they will continue to insist video games need to be legally enforced, despite the fact that legal enforcement would not lower those percentages much more if at all. Though even that won't shut up the most zealous anti-game mouth pieces

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

You really think they'd be quiet even if it were at 0%?

The only thing that's going to get them to stop going after games is a newer medium to be afraid of.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

That, and they keep ignoring that other rating systems do NOT carry the force of law.

Re: FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to ...

BOOYAH!  Suck on it, all other forms of media!

...Err, I mean, another splendid display of tact and restraint on the part of gaming retailers, yes yes.

*cough*

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Should ‘sexism’ factor into a video game’s rating?:

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Andrew EisenNo but it is defaulting to a very low volume. Not muted though.11/20/2014 - 10:14pm
MaskedPixelanteIs anyone else experiencing this weird Youtube glitch where, no matter what you had the volume set at last time, it defaults to muted no matter what?11/20/2014 - 10:07pm
MechaTama31What was wrong with Remember Me? I liked that one... >.>11/20/2014 - 8:50pm
AvalongodI tend to see the violence and sexism issues as different. Historically we know that the violence issue is overblown. But sexism is real. Better representations of women in games WILL happen.11/20/2014 - 7:35pm
Andrew EisenAnd unless I completely missed it, there's nothing in there about "how Pokemon in general is sexist but you gotta look deep for it."11/20/2014 - 5:10pm
Andrew EisenSeriously, you're upset, irked and fearful over an opinion piece that suggests the Pokemon demo would be better with more options and a better-written female character? SERIOUSLY?!11/20/2014 - 5:07pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://gamasutra.com/blogs/PugetAlain/20141118/230420/Nearly_Ripped_off_to_death_by_a_publisher__Get_better_by_yourself_and_wait_for_justice_Maybe.php Topware screws over an indie studio because they can.11/20/2014 - 5:01pm
Andrew EisenAre you SURE you provided the right link?11/20/2014 - 4:59pm
prh99And yeah that sucks, especially when bonuses are tied to it, but that is more a problem with crappy publisher policies and scoring in general than any discussion on what may or may no be sexism in games.11/20/2014 - 4:59pm
prh99But no one is on their legislative high horse or on the litigation war path, for that matter. The biggest effect is that a reviewer might give it a lower score and drag down their meta critic ranking.11/20/2014 - 4:56pm
Wonderkarpyup11/20/2014 - 4:51pm
Andrew EisenOh for crying out loud. Wonderkarp, I apologize for how rude this question is but seriously, did you actually read that article?11/20/2014 - 4:47pm
Wonderkarpits a stigma. people in power hear this crap and start getting on their legislative high horse. but I feel like we've already paid too much attention too a demo.11/20/2014 - 4:46pm
Andrew EisenHarm gaming how?11/20/2014 - 4:35pm
Wonderkarpcause it gets parroted around and is used by people to harm gaming like Jack Thompsons did with Violence. http://www.themarysue.com/pokemon-oras-sexism/ here's the article.11/20/2014 - 4:28pm
Andrew EisenNo idea why such an opinion would upset or irk you so I'd be interested in reading it. Got a link?11/20/2014 - 4:13pm
Wonderkarplook deep for it....reaching much. those kinds of people are what urk me.11/20/2014 - 4:07pm
WonderkarpI got upset the other day when a known feminist blog wrote a large article on how the demo to Pokemon Omega Ruby was Sexist cause you couldnt play as a girl. It was a Demo....who cares? but they went off on how Pokemon in general is sexist but you gotta11/20/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenHere's the panel that Sarkeesian quote from earlier comes from. Amazing what the proper context does, isn't it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0qxtKz2vZw11/20/2014 - 3:32pm
NeenekoSomething to keep in mind, we tend to look at physics as 'hard', but math and physics are trivial compared to soc/psych (I have worked in both), but FEELS like it should be simplier.11/20/2014 - 3:17pm
 

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