In the U.S., it’s legal for a toddler to walk into GameStop and purchase the latest M-rated God of War game, but GameStop probably won’t sell it to him.

In a Federal Trade Commission operation, only 13 percent of underage gamers were able to successfully purchase M-rated titles at game retailers in the U.S. That makes the gaming industry nearly twice as effective as movie theaters at enforcing content codes, which let 24 percent of underage kids in to see R-rated films.

“Our underage shopper survey shows continued progress in reducing sales,” said Charles Harwood, the acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But retailers can still strengthen their commitment to limit children’s access to products that are rated or labeled as potentially inappropriate for them.”

ESRB Games Retailers

Similarly, 30 percent of the FTC’s underage mystery shoppers were able to purchase R-rated and Unrated films from retailers. For music, 47 percent of minors were able to purchase music with the “Parental Advisory” label.

“We applaud video game retailers for once again demonstrating our industry’s ongoing commitment to parents,” ESRB president Patricia Vance said in a statement. “This success is due in part to retail partnership programs like the ESRB Retail Council, through which we regularly conduct our own mystery shops to help retailers maintain a high level of store policy enforcement. We will continue these responsible efforts with unwavering dedication to serving parents.”


On a retailer-by-retailer basis, Walmart allowed nearly one in four underage shoppers to buy an M-rated title. Target, on the other hand, scored the first 100 percent enforcement rate for any retailer in any of the medium categories, according to the FTC. GameStop, Kmart, and Toys R Us allowed 10, 9, and 5 percent, respectively.