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The Globe and Mail

Study suggests retailers successfully restricting sales of M-rated games

It turns out American video game retailers are doing a pretty good job of not selling mature titles to kids.

The results of an undercover shopping survey conducted by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that examines whether retailers enforce Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) age ratings suggest that game sellers rarely sell adult-oriented games to kids. Only 13 per cent of underage secret shoppers were successful in their bid to buy M-rated games. This is an improvement of seven per cent over the survey's results in 2009, and the sixth consecutive time that game retailers have improved in the FTC's semi-annual study.

Shoppers visited nearly 300 stores in six large retail chains, including BestBuy, GameStop, Kmart, Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us. GameStop and Target employees were most vigilant, allowing only nine and eight per cent of underage shoppers to purchase inappropriate games, respectively. Walmart and BestBuy were least watchful, allowing 20 and 16 per cent of the kids recruited by the FTC to purchase M-rated games.

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The FTC's secret shoppers had much more success when they attempted to purchase tickets to R-rated films, R-rated DVDs, unrated DVDs, and explicit content CDs. Music retailers performed particularly poorly, allowing 66 per cent of the FTC's secret shoppers to purchase discs with parental advisory warnings.

The FTC's findings come at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is debating a high profile case concerning the sales of violent games. Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association examines a law proposed by the former California governor which would seek a $1,000 fine for any retailer found guilty of selling M-rated games to minors. Schwarzenegger believes that the industry isn't doing enough to keep kids from purchasing violent games, and that the government needs to step in.

This survey would seem to contradict that claim.

That said, David Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement accompanying the survey results that while progress is being made in keeping underage shoppers from accessing media with inappropriate content, "more needs to be done."

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