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FTC: Harder for Kids to Buy M-Rated Games

A new report from the Federal Trade Commission employed a group of 13-to-16 children as undercover shoppers to see how often retailers would allow them to purchase video games rated “M” by the ESRB, which should only be sold to individuals 18 years of age or older. The results? The retail industry seems to have improved its performance: the undercover study found that minors were 22 percent less likes to be able to buy M-rated games than they were last year…although some retailers are much more effective at enforcing age limits than others.

Overall, the study found that 20 percent of underage shoppers were able to set hands on M-rated video games, down from a whopping 42 percent in 2006. The FTC also released performance figures for major retailers, finding that Game Stop stopped 94 percent of attempts by underage shoppers to buy an M-rated game, while Best Buy and Wal-mart managed to stop 80 percent of the attempts. At the other end of the scale, Circuit City and Hollywood Video only managed to prevent 62 and 60 percent of the attempts.

The shopping study—and its positive results—come at a good time for the video game industry, right as the controversial (and M-rated) Grand Theft Auto IV hits retailers and shatters video game sales records, fueling parents’ concerns about content children might be exposed to via video games. The study also comes after the National Institute for Media and the Family chastised the video game industry last year, warning of an “ominous backslide” and concluding minors were able to purchase M-rated games about half the time.

The FTC undercover buyer study also looked at the frequency underage shoppers were able to buy an R-rated movie ticket, purchase an R-rated or unrated DVD, or buy a music CD with a Parent Advisory Label. The numbers were all down compared to 2006, but underage shoppers were, on average, able to purchase all those things much more frequently than they were able to buy an M-rated game.