GameDaily reports on data released by Nielsen which holds that 17% of Grand Theft Auto IV buyers were under 17.
But in 39% of those cases someone else - typically a parent - actually purchased the game, which means that the actual number of unassisted underage buyers was about 10%.
While GameDaily and other outlets are finding alarm in these numbers, the 10% figure is actually twice as good as might have been expected.
In April the FTC released data showing that 20% of its underage secret shoppers successfully purchased M-rated content, the game industry's best result ever. The Nielsen data effectively doubles the game industry's ratings enforcement effectiveness. From the Nielsen report:
61% of these younger gamers indicated that they purchased the M-rated game themselves, with 39% of the young gamers responding that someone else bought the game for them," Nielsen said. "Interestingly enough, parents/guardians were pegged as the biggest facilitators for getting the controversial game into the hands of these young respondents, garnering 80% of the response. Friends, siblings and other relatives rounded out the other 20% of the response.
The GTA IV numbers also look pretty good when stacked up against a new Dartmouth study which says that 48% of minors have been exposed to R-rated movies.
GP: Obviously, you'd like to see zero sales to underage buyers, but we don't live in a perfect world. These results are a significant improvement over the 2008 FTC numbers, which were deemed extremely impressive when released.
It is great to see Nielsen providing this kind of data, as it gives context to the ratings enforcement issue. It's the kind of the data the industry ought to be providing on its own, however.