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

Re: BREAKING - FTC Study Shows Massive Improvement in Video

Ok after reading this and playing video games since "mothers against VVG" were around if they even exisit anymore, but this is something as being a parent and avivid gamer this is something that brings sorrow and happiness at the same time cause this tells me that we "need" to be govern by the government to what I expose my kid too..?? I mean come on there is more stuff out there that our kids are exposed to then violent games. Drugs? When was the last time we heard a report on how many potheads are under 13? But how many under 13 kids can get a M-rated game? More of my tax dollar spent foolishy on things that have no bearing on my kid or the future for that matter. In closing glad that at lest we are getting some "brownie" points on the frontlines of this.

Awesome, what a key piece of research and information that will go largely unheard/denounced by the watch dog groups and moral crusaders of America, since obviously this won't help *push* the agenda.

What I find interesting is that two worst offenders, Circuit City and Hollywood Video, were also the ones in the most dire financial straits. Perhaps they're being told *not* to refuse sales?

I can't wait to read the report.

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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

Here is a summary if you want to read it:

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/05/secretshop.shtm

I expect to hear the PTC demand the FTC look at their findings again and tell everyone what the "real" number is and not what the video game companies paid them to say.

Wow! That's great news! I like seeing this kind of stuff. It is possible for the industry to run itself without government intervention!

Good job, Gamestop. Did us proud!

Nice to see. Anyone know the rates for R rated movies and Explicit CDs?

You know, when I worked retail I absolutely hated not letting kids buy M rated games and got chewed out by a few parents for making them come into the store so they could buy the game for their kid. Never realized just how important it was. I considered it to be harmful to gaming, rather than helping gaming. Weird how perspectives change, isn't it?

In your face JT! In your face!

@ Dick Ward

Read the summary I posted. Movies were about 50% Music 70% I think.

As for games, Walmart and Best Buy held us back.

@ Dick Ward

EZK's link (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/05/secretshop.shtm) has all that info.

Some bad offenders on that list unfortunately.

Well, it looks like I'm all wet regarding my arguments for the proposed bill in the last thread. I don't mind it one bit, actually. And in fact, I'm glad. One look at this by congress will show that Matheson and Terry's bill isn't needed after all. So its likliehood of passing will be be even more reduced than it already is.

@ Black Manta

They will completely disregard this study.

No one pays attention to stuff like this when 'protecting the children' is on the line.

This is great news to hear for the next time JT claims that kids are able to buy an M game on a whim.

I take what I said about music. It is at 56% failure rate.

Thanks for the news, but I have to say that it doesn't matter as far as censorship is concerned. It's hard to fight paranoia with facts. At this point, the people going after the gaming industry are willfully ignorant. No amount of facts is going to persuade them.

@Gamer137
JT will just add the words "at Circuit City" rather than Gamestop/Best Buy

FTC stats=FBI/CIA/etc intel reports in the eyes of politicians, that's my prediction.

I mean, remember when every intelligence agency in the US said "Iran is not capable of building nuclear arms and has abandoned research on such weapons" and then every chicken hawk republican was flabbergasted for 10 minutes then went right back to talking about nuking iran? Well, same thing here.

I agree with EZK, the PTC and other belief driven organizations will likely spin it the report negatively or will continue to push their ideas anyway.

They are not known for being rational or logical.

Take that Jack Thompson!!

Great job by Gamespot, and I believe this proves that the industry can improve their selves, especially with the one place that mainly sells games being the best.

@EZK

The reason why BB and Wal-Mart held us back is because of their hiring practices. They get people who have little knowledge and even less care about what they are selling, and push the almighty dollar above all else. BB will maybe put a notice in an annual letter about enforcing the ESRB policy, but hammer in to the staff that they have to sell whatever they can every day. So between the application of policy and the lackluster staff, it's no surprise on the numbers.

Well, I'm only 15, so now I know to buy any M-rated games I want at hollywood video!

Just Joking! My parents have to see all games that I buy anyways. I wish that the industry didn't have to do these secret shopping reports at all and could just count on parents to do their job, but there are so many uninformed parents out there.

O well.

Suck it Jack Thompson!

Game industry:1 Game haters:0


We rule!

I bought GTA 4 at Circuit City...I'm 30 but i should point out i didn't get carded what makes it even worse he turned over my checkcard which wasn't signed and still didn't ask for any id.

When I was 16 i got carded for a House of Pain cd....It was an uber FAIL!

@ TheEdge
its more like Game Industry: 9,234,567,602 Game hater: 0

I could see Jack Thompson popping up on here and saying that is not correct because it does not fit his standards.

I wonder what the PTC has to say about that. Wait a minute, what does the PTC has to do with games?

I do believe that GameStop does have a policy to card everyone who is buying an M rated game. So, if your 80 year old Grandmother goes into one of their stores and buys an M rated game she will be carded. Frankly, I think it's cute.

When I pre-ordered MGS4, GTA IV, and Fallout 3 and paid them off (on the same day), they checked my ID. I even remember getting my ID checked a couple months ago when I bought some M rated game (don't remember what) So they definitely are doing checks more than they used to.

In other news, you suck Hollywood Video!

Am I the only one that gets really ticked off at the "wrote an interesting post" thing that is posted every single freaking time?

I mean, you could at least have put a name. The very very least.

and yet game critics like thompson will ignore these facts as they always do even when their facts are completely false (Cho's counter strike) because this wont be put on faux news or CNN how is your average joe going to find this information? afterall most eat up the lies from the media, i am worried about all your news media in america mostly fox news... am i correct that they won a case that says they have the right to lie to the public? this worlds going to hell.. (thats unfair most newspapers are like this in the world) ... i see this only as a moral win for the games and some ammunition for gamers who fight back agianst game critics lies but this wont change any game critics stance on games or thier "facts" *cough* *cough* thompson will keep using his "kids can buy any game without parents or id" line

Great news.

Unfortunately, and I hate to be the downer here, we can count on Senator Yee, Senator Clinton (who should drop out of the race), and Jack Thompson, among others, to either ignore this report or spin the report.

It's good to have some evidence refuting the claims of pundits who claim that these video games are getting into the hands of kids. All the same, it's not like these people are going to be swayed by things like this. They didn't go looking up statistics before forming their opinions so I doubt that things like statistics and data mean that much to them.

Won't stop pundits. They'll just focus on the "1 in 5 can buy pr0n" crap. Or rely on their own flawed "stings". Or only report on the numbers from Circuit City, or Hollywood Video, since those match *their* reality.

They'll also completely ignore the dismal failure of DVD and movie ticket sales...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

This is excellent news - I just hope that critics and concerned parents will listen to it. I think it has a chance of turning at least a few heads, since this is from the FTC. I wonder if they will eventually target smaller/regional chains, like Play 'n' Trade, but it would probably use too many resources to do so.

I notice that if you break it down by retail store, they seem to focus completely on games, and not at all on movies or music. With the exception being KMart, which seems to be rigorously enforcing music and unlabelled DVD ratings, but only average on both R-rated movies and games...

Ability to buy:
Target
Games: 29%
Movies: 65% (R-rated)
Music: 60%

Best Buy:
Games: 20%
Movies: 62%
Music: 53%

Kmart:
Games: 31%
Movies: 47% (20% for unrated)
Music: 17%

Any idea why Walmart isn't on the list for music sales? I thought they were a really big player when it came to music. Or does Walmart not carry PAL music?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Arashi

"I wonder if they will eventually target smaller/regional chains, like Play ‘n’ Trade"

Usually when the full report is made available, it breaks it down by "National retailers vs. Small independant retailers" and things like "retail chain vs. media specific chain (like BlockBuster or HMV)".
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Jabrwock

Walmart is huge for music sales as far as physical stores (comes in behind iTunes and Amazon by a lot for actual sales), but last I heard they only sell family friendly versions of CDs. So while a heavy metal CD at Best Buy would have the warning on it and some profanity the Walmart one wouldn't have the label and would have the lyrics suddenly cut out in places on the CD.

I find it surprising when the guys at GameStop card me, because they know me there. They know I'm 22. And yet, they still card me. It's a nice surprise.

odd isnt it!

JT alleges its all a conspiracy by the games industry to sell games and make profit yet GAMESTOP the DEDICATED GAME STORE was BEST!


the worst were the big multipurpose stores like walmart etc.

So will JT get off take twos back now? turns out the real culprits are walmart etc all along! If everyone followed the practives of gamestop that would be amazing!

Bleh, forgot to make my own post.

It's good to see games so low, but I have to add my voice to the ones that don't think this will sway the anti-games crowd at all. They will not care that little Jimmy can go buy R-rated or unrated movies every other try, they'll just care that on 3 out of 50 tries he can buy an M-rated game at xyz store. They aren't in it for the children or else they would care, they just don't like games because they didn't grow up with them and find games to be evil because of not understanding them. They ignore movies and music because they had these things and know they aren't bad, so the high rate of success for kids buying movies they shouldn't be able to is fine, but anything short of 0% for kids buying M-rated games is unacceptable to them.

@ Jabrwock

Walmart does not carry PAL music. So they would not be a part of the sting.

You know the politicians, and Jack Thompsons just going to ignore this kinda stuff.

@Jabrwock

"Any idea why Walmart isn’t on the list for music sales? I thought they were a really big player when it came to music. Or does Walmart not carry PAL music?"

In short, no they don't carry PAL music. If an album has an explict and a non-explict version, they'll carry the later. If it only has an explict lyrics version, they won't carry it.

Game, Set, Match Jackhole.

My local BB cards, not sure if either Gamestop does (I don't recall ever buying an M game there), and Circuit City carded me when I bought Blazing Saddles (rated R for flatulence), although I'm not sure that wasn't just because I used plastic instead of cash.

This is a good start, however. We shouldn't be satisfied until we get all these numbers statistically insignificant from 0%,which for Gamestop may already be the case (I haven't looked at the raw numbers yet).
 
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