Individuals under the age of 17 were turned away 80% of the time when trying to purchase or rent an M-rated game, according to a new mystery shopper survey released today by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The study, which can be found here, included an audit of 253 retail stores across the country, and debunks the myth that children can walk into any store and purchase an M-rated video game. The 80% figure represents an increase of 38% over the FTC’s last mystery shopper survey conducted in 2006, and an impressive 433% above the rate measured in 2000, the first time the FTC conducted such an audit.
In response, Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), stated:
“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.”
The ESRB Retail Council, which includes nine member companies representing approximately 90% of total game sales in the U.S., commissions biannual mystery shop studies using the same company that performs them for the FTC. The most recent of these, conducted in November 2007, found 76% compliance with store policies, up from 65% the year prior.
The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). ESRB independently assigns computer and video game content ratings, enforces advertising guidelines, and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.