It doesn't take a parental watchdog group to point out that Grand Theft Auto IV might not be the most appropriate choice for kids. Rockstar Games' open-world action game pushes its M-for-Mature rating with generous helpings of "intense violence, blood, strong language, [and] strong sexual content," according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Despite the content descriptors and the series' notoriety, GTAIV frequently found its way into the hands of those under 17, according to a new study from The Nielsen Company.
In a recently released white paper, the industry-tracking group recapped survey results from more than 6,000 gamers. In addition to recapping buying habits and trends broken down by gender and age demographics, Nielsen noted that minors had "relative ease" in acquiring copies of the game. Unlike tobacco or alcohol, buying M-rated games for the underage is not illegal, although most retailers have policies that prohibit it.
According to the survey, 17 percent of the respondents who purchased GTAIV were between the ages of 7 and 16. Of those younger gamers, 61 percent purchased the game themselves, whereas the remaining 39 percent had a relative or a friend acquire the game in their stead.
As for who was buying the game and giving it to children, it was usually a parent or guardian, according to the survey. In some 80 percent of those cases in which kids had somebody else pick up GTAIV for them, it was a parent or guardian doing the purchasing. Older siblings were the next most-common facilitators (10 percent), followed by other relatives (8 percent), and finally friends (2 percent).
Other findings from the survey shed some light on consumers' purchasing habits. Gamers aged 18 to 24 were the least likely to pick up the $90 special-edition bundle of GTAIV, which included a duffel bag, soundtrack CD, art book, and a safety deposit box. The package was most popular in the 7 to 12 age group, with 36 percent of those purchasers opting for the bells-and-whistles edition.
As for those who own both an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3, the most popular reason to buy the game for one system over the other was a simple console preference. The second-biggest reason for those who went with the Xbox 360 edition was the promise of exclusive downloadable content (25 percent), whereas the runner-up reason for PS3 purchasers was free online play (19 percent).