The Federal Trade Commission recently released the results of a survey of how well enforced the sale of mature rated media to minors is. Recruiting a number of undercover shoppers ranging from ages 13 to 16, the FTC sent these individuals into retail outlets and movie theatres to purchase R-rated DVDs and movie tickets, CDs containing explicit lyrics, and video games rated as Mature by the ESRB. The findings? Only 13 percent of these underage and undercover shoppers were able to purchase M-rated video games, while 64 percent of these minors were able to purchase explicitly labeled CDs.
Of the worst offenders, Walmart ranked the highest with 20% percent of these undercover minors being able to purchase M-rated video games. Best Buy came in second at 16%. The top two retailers that stuck to their guns in enforcing the ratings were Target at 8 percent and Gamestop at 9 percent.
While the results may be shocking to proponents of government enforcement for M-rated games, this survey serves as a heavily weighted validation for those who support the self regulation of video game sales. The effectiveness of the ESRB ratings system and the self regulation of retail chains to sell M-rated games to minors has been a hot button topic for quite a few years now, with the matter winding up before the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the matter, but one wonders if these new findings will be taken into consideration while they deliberate.
In a recent press release from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, Patricia Vance had this to say regarding the FTC findings.
“We are extremely pleased to see the Federal Trade Commission confirm not only that the video game industry continues to have the highest rate of enforcement at retail, but that it continues to climb higher than before. The strong support that the ESRB ratings have enjoyed from retailers is crucial, underscoring their firm commitment to selling video games responsibly. We congratulate game retailers on this indisputable validation of their efforts, and commend groups like the Entertainment Merchants Association and our own ESRB Retail Council members for their ongoing work and progress in preventing the sale or rental of M-rated games to those under the age of seventeen.”
Walmart, and Best Buy have been contacted for comment. But they have as of yet not returned correspondence.