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.

Posted in


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.

Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra. Hell will stay frozen over for quite a while since the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Pelicans. Solidarity for the Saints = No retreat, no surrender. 2013 = Saints' revenge on the NFL. Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always.

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:


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.



Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :


Did Microsoft pay too much ($2.5 billion) for Minecraft developer Mojang?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldEZacharyKnight : Lemme ask you a question. We have people who cling to walls, people who fire lasers from their eyes, people who can shapeshift....and yet fabric needs to be upheld to RL physics?09/17/2014 - 6:54pm
james_fudgebody paint?09/17/2014 - 5:33pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I stand corrected on the buttcrack thing. Still, I know of no fabric that actually does that.09/17/2014 - 5:05pm
Andrew EisenSo... it's unethical to discuss the ethics surrounding public interest vs. personal privacy?09/17/2014 - 4:45pm
prh99The source for the game was just released not long ago, it's at https://github.com/keendreams/keen09/17/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99An Indiegogo champagin bought the rights to the early 90's game Keen Dreams to make it open source and release it on GOG etc. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-keen-dreams-re-released-legally09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
james_fudgeAlso http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/09/17/Exposed-the-secret-mailing-list-of-the-gaming-journalism-elite09/17/2014 - 4:29pm
Andrew EisenI read the Kotaku story. Nowhere does it say anything close to "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers." It's commenting specifically on the crap being slung at people discussing gender issues in games. So, what's the problem?09/17/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenYeah, I can imagine Spiderwoman posed like in your second link.09/17/2014 - 4:00pm
Andrew EisenThat's not the same pose. Spiderman (who is wearing an actual outfit rather than body paint) is crouched low to the ground. Kinda like a spider! Spiderwoman has her butt up in the air like she's waiting to be mounted.09/17/2014 - 3:59pm
quiknkoldAndrew Eisen : Kotaku did a whiole article on it, as did others http://kotaku.com/we-might-be-witnessing-the-death-of-an-identity-162820307909/17/2014 - 3:59pm
CMinerQuiknkold: Do you think that there are no cases where a piece of art (painting, movie, videogame, comic cover, etc) is unambiguously sexist?09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
quiknkoldand can you imagine if Spiderwoman was posed like this? http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/spider-man1.jpg09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
Andrew EisenWhat games outlet is writing articles saying "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers"? What examples have you seen of journalists being paid off for favorable reviews? Who's shaming what now? What's the problem with critiquing the Spiderwoman cover?09/17/2014 - 3:57pm

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician