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October 25, 2010



The PTC is proud to announce the results of its latest "secret shopper" campaign to determine whether or not video game retail outlets are adhering to the video game industry's guidelines, and refusing to sell M-rated video games to unaccompanied minor children.

PTC activists conducted 109 visits to local stores in 14 markets in 11 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. During each visit, a youth between the ages of 12 and 16 attempted to purchase an M-rated video game. They were instructed not to lie or misrepresent themselves in any way.

Out of the 109 stores visited, 21 sold M-rated games to minors -- a 19% failure rate by the video game retailers. While this is an improvement by all but two chains over the PTC’s previous “secret shopper” campaign in 2008, it is hardly the level of compliance parents should expect from an industry that touts its ratings system as a solution. In 2008, a survey by the Federal Trade Commission found that "20% of underage teenage shoppers were able to buy M-rated video games." Thus, compliance with ESRB guidelines -- even by the ESRB's own Retail Partners -- has hardly improved in two years.

Chain stores which are ESRB Retail Partners are listed by name. Other stores are considered local/regional chains. Results are listed next to the results of the PTC's 2008 campaign.

With such an abysmal performance rate by the video game retailers, it is no wonder that statehouses around the country have passed legislation on this issue. Most measures would simply impose a financial consequence on retailers who fail to abide by the industry’s own guidelines.

In 2005, an outpouring of support from the Parents Television Council's members in California helped to revive a stalled bill in Sacramento that was eventually passed and signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. This commonsense measure was immediately challenged in court by the multi-billion-dollar video game industry, and has gone through a succession of appeals. On November 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case. We will monitor the case closely and will inform you about any developments.

We urge you and all PTC members – as well as all concerned parents and grandparents across America – to speak up on this issue. When you are shopping at retail outlets that sell mature-rated games, ask sales clerks and store managers whether they are enforcing the age limitations when they sell adult products to children who may be underage. Tell the store manager that this is an important issue to you, and urge them to comply. And vote with your wallets! Reward stores that successfully protect children from harmful and explicit entertainment products.

Please also take a moment to help the PTC engage in more secret shopper campaigns, and to help the PTC with its research, education and advocacy efforts by clicking below on the green donation button. Every penny you give is tax-deductible. And remember: the PTC does not receive a penny from the government. We are only able to do our vital work thanks to the generous support of our members like you.

And finally, please forward this message to everyone who shares your values on this important issue.

Thank you!


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