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FTC Survey Shows Kids Unable To Buy Mature Games 80% Of The Time

The latest “undercover shopper” survey conducted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has shown that children were unable to buy Mature-rated games 80% of the time - the ESRB and EMA are praising the results as a "major improvement" for the industry. [

Simon Carless, Blogger

May 8, 2008

2 Min Read

A recent “undercover shopper” survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission showed that children sent into 253 different stores by the federal agency to buy Mature-rated games were turned down 80% of the time. This was a significant increase from the 58% turn-down rate reported in the FTC’s previous “undercover shopper” survey in 2007. The turn-down rate reported in the first survey, which was conducted in 2000, was 16%. The Entertainment Merchants Association, a non-profit association dedicated to advancing the interests of the entertainment industry, claims that the survey’s findings came as a result of the industry’s investments in increasing the enforcement of the “Mature” rating for video and computer games. The independent, industry-established ESRB game ratings association also applauded the results, stating that the survey debunks the myth that children can walk into any store and purchase an M-rated video game. Said ESRB president Patricia Vance: "Video game retailers have clearly stepped up their efforts to enforce their store policies, and they deserve recognition for these outstanding results. We commend and applaud retailers for their strong support of the ESRB ratings, and will continue working with them to help ensure that these levels of compliance are sustained if not further increased.” More detailed information on the FTC survey is available at the official FTC website entry for the 'Secret Shopper' study, which also covers other media such as movies. [UPDATE: The activist non-profit National Institute For Media And The Family has also weighed in on the announcement, with President Dr. David Walsh commenting: “The results of the Federal Trade Commission’s latest undercover survey are good news for retailers and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), but most of all for parents. For eight years, retailers have steadily improved their enforcement efforts to keep inappropriate video games out of the hands of kids... The time has come for the ESRB, retailers and parental advocacy organizations to work together to ensure retailers are compliant and parents understand game ratings. While parents can breathe a little easier from these results, it does not mean they should be less vigilant in knowing what video games their kids are purchasing, renting and playing. Again, parents need to ‘watch what their kids watch, play what their kids play.’"]

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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