Game industry trade associations are hailing the latest FTC report on restricting sales of mature games to minors, though the report does admit that more can be done, especially in the area of internet ads.
The FTC gave the games industry high marks in rising awareness levels of the ESRB system, with 87 percent of parents and 75 percent of children showing awareness of the ratings, up from 61 percent and 73 percent in 2000.
94 percent of parents said the ESRB system was easy to understand, up from 77 percent in 2000, and parental involvement in buying games was up 5 percent from 2000 to 89 percent. The number of parents actively restricting the games their children play was also up from 69 percent in 2000 to 85 percent this year.
The full 140-page report (pdf
) has shown that "significant progress" has been made in the game industry in limiting TV ads for mature games during teen-oriented programming, though chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a statement that the report "indicates that the entertainment industry has more work to do."
Specifically the commission, for the first time, tracked trends in viral marketing for games, such as that done on social networking sites like MySpace and video sites like YouTube, and found that "few profile pages contain prominent rating information," despite reaching "a large number of children under 17."
The report also notes that in the "new trend in gaming, mobile phone games," poses new challenges, specifically a distinct lack of ratings for mobile games and the lack of traditional retail channels, instead licensing products directly to wireless carriers, potentially side-stepping parental oversight.
"We’re pleased that today’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report affirms what other consumer research has previously shown to be true," said ESRB president Patricia Vance, "namely that the overwhelming majority of parents are aware of the ratings, understand what they mean, agree with them, find them helpful and are actively using them to choose appropriate video games for their children."
She continued, "Though the results reported by FTC are overwhelmingly positive, the ESRB will continue to work diligently to ensure that parents are informed about the ratings, are making informed decisions about the games their children play, and that games are responsibly marketed."
The Entertainment Software Association's senior VP Carolyn Rauch similarly lauded the findings, saying, "We're pleased that the FTC has acknowledged what we in the industry have long-known: the best way to help parents are industry-led, self-regulatory efforts that can provide them information they need," adding that the ESA looked forward "to continuing our efforts to establish public/private partnerships that can aid parents."
Finally, Entertainment Merchants Association president Bo Andersen also issued a statement, saying, "We are very gratified, but frankly not surprised, by the FTC's findings that video game retailers have demonstrably and significantly increased the level of enforcement of the 'Mature' rating for video games at the point of sale. Retailers have improved their enforcement of store policies restricting the sale of Mature-rated games by 362% – from a 16% to a 58% turn-down rate – since the FTC's first shopping survey in 2000 and almost doubled the turn-down rate since the last survey in the fall of 2003."
On restrictions of R-rated movie and DVD sales to minors, of which the FTC report was somewhat less impressed, Andersen added that the "EMA accepts the challenge to extend that performance to the retailing of DVDs."