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FTC report: mixed reviews on industry's ability to self-regulate

Ross Miller

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The Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. has released a new report praising the games industry for making "significant progress" in decreasing both the sale of mature-rated games to minors and the advertising of mature titles alongside teen-marketed television shows, while criticizing them for failing to maintain similar marketing standards with internet advertising.

Other interesting statistics and observations:

  • In the five years between 2001 and 2006, sales of M-rated titles to minors have dropped 36% (from 78% to 42%). No other industry was reported to have such a significant decline and only the sale of R-rated movie ticket to minors is lower (39% in 2006, an increase of 3% over 2003).
  • Of the parents surveyed, 87% are aware of the ESRB, 70% utilize it and 75% of those familiar with the content descriptors use them.
  • Current ESRB regulations do not allow game publishers to advertise M-rated games on sites where 45% or more of the audience is under 17. The FTC report said that they are "not adequately enforcing even this limited standard." Our query, which is not adequately explained in the report's press release, is how the FTC is able to discern the demographic of a website (other than maybe content and grammar usage), and which is it following? Only MySpace and YouTube are specifically cited here. And, to be quite honest, if the FTC were able to effectively discern the demographics found on a site like YouTube, they could sell that data-mining algorithm and make quadrillions in profit.
The FTC report also chastises the ESRB for failing to put content descriptors on the front of the box. Said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras overall, "Self-regulation, long a critical underpinning of U.S. advertising, is weakened if industry markets products in ways inconsistent with their ratings and parental advisories ... This latest FTC report shows improvement, but also indicates that the entertainment industry has more work to do."

[Via Game Politics]

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