Parental advocate group the Parents Television Council has revealed that a "secret shopper" study found that 19% of game retailers across 14 American markets were willing to sell Mature games (suitable for 17 years and older) to kids between 12 and 16 years old.
The study involved 109 kids with ages between 12 and 16 years and spanned across 11 U.S. states.
This is a remarkable improvement over the results of another study conducted by the same group in 2008 where it was found that 35% of game retailers were willing to sell Mature games to kids. However, this didn't stop the PTC from claiming that "Compliance with ESRB guidelines -- even by the ESRB's own retail partners -- has hardly improved in two years."
The group is using the findings of the study to support next week's ruling on Schwarzenegger vs EMA, a Supreme Court decision on whether the US requires further restrictions on the sale and display of violent videogames.
Responding to the study, ESRB Director of Communications Eliot Mizrachi issued a statement affirming that retailers' rate of restriction for Mature-rated games is the highest of any entertainment product tested by the Federal Trade Commission, including DVDs, CDs and admittance to R-rated films in theaters, and that "putting aside their questionable methodology - which precludes their studies from being compared to those commissioned by the FTC - the Parent Television Council's mystery shopper results actually reveal significant improvement despite their efforts to disguise that fact."
"Frankly, the latest PTC member sting operation actually verifies the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system and the ever-increasing support it receives from retailers," the ESRP director statement concludes.