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Study Finds Retail Outlets Are Enforcing ESRB Game Ratings

by Rainier on Nov. 29, 2006 @ 12:12 p.m. PST

The 2006 MediaWise Video and Computer Game Report Card confirms that the nation's leading retailers are enforcing computer and video game ratings by refusing to sell games rated "Mature" by the ESRB to persons under age 17, unlike the small stores who according to the study are way less proactive.

The Report Card, produced by the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), found that children under the age of 17 that NIMF sent into stores to purchase "Mature"-rated video games were turned down 68% of the time, the highest turn-down rate ever recorded by NIMF. The Report Card awarded the major national retail chains, which account for most video game sales, an "A" for their ratings enforcement efforts. The results for major retailers reported in the Report Card are similar to the level of ratings enforcement found by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its most recent "mystery shop" of computer and video game retailers.

"The MediaWise Report Card demonstrates, as the Federal Trade Commission also found earlier this year, that major national retailers that sell computer and video games have successfully implemented aggressive policies to prohibit the sale of 'Mature'-rated games to persons under age 17," noted Bo Andersen, President of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). "We commend these retailers and for their superior performance, which sets the standard for all game retailers."

Since 2000, the FTC has periodically conducted "mystery shopper" surveys to determine retailers' compliance with the voluntary ratings enforcement policies.

The 2005 FTC mystery shop, released in March 2006, shows that the current turn-down rate is 65% for the national retail chains. Overall, the FTC found that children it sent into video game stores to buy "Mature"-rated games were turned down 58% of the time. Retailers 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. Likewise, the annual MediaWise Report Cards show an increase in the turn-down rate for children under age 17 attempting to purchase "Mature"-rated games, from a 19% turn-down rate in 2000 to 68% today.

"Retailers have been targeted with punitive legislation regarding video game sales, which is based on a lack of understanding of the actual level of ratings enforcement in stores," Andersen noted. "Hopefully, today's Report Card will help convince legislators that efforts to target video game retailers are misplaced."

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