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Amid gun debate, game investors express concern

Amid gun debate, game investors express concern

December 21, 2012 | By Mike Rose

Following the tragic events that occurred in Newtown last week, video game investors are worried potential new legislation may lead to restricted sales of video games that depict acts of violence.

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a government figure who has long been concerned about the impact violent video games have on children, introduced legislation this week that directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study and investigation into the connection between violent video games and harmful effects on children.

The Senator's hope is that the study will find, within the next 18 months, whether violent video games do in fact have a unique impact on children.

As Doug Creutz of analyst group Cowen and Co. notes in an investor note today, it is not hugely surprising that Senator Rockefeller has chosen to scrutinize the link with video games rather than gun control, given that West Virginia has the fifth highest rate of gun ownership in the U.S. The lobbying power of the National Rifle Association (which on Friday said video games contribute to real-life violence) will no doubt have far exceeded that of the Entertainment Software Association in the area.

However, Creutz was quick to stress that video game investors should not be worried by this new legislation, nor should they be worried about any links being made between the tragedy in Newtown and violent video games.

This is because, first off, video games are protected under the First Amendment, as was firmly ruled last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore sales of violent games to minors cannot be banned.

But there is more to it than that, says Creutz. He suggests that, since most players of M-rated video games are adults (the average Call of Duty player is 29 years old, for example), fears that parents will stop buying mature games for their children are overblown, as parents by and large aren't buying video games for their kids anyway.

Adds Creutz, "We think any notion that lower future consumption of shooter titles by children represents a real risk to video game sales is misplaced."

We've been here before

Another point to factor into the equation: Haven't most adults already made up their minds about whether violent video games are a negative influence? Creutz argues that there have already been numerous studies carried out in a bid to link violent video games and violent acts, and these have always come back inconclusive.

"We believe that the vast majority of players of video games with violent content have already made their minds up on this issue and are unlikely to be swayed by recent events," he notes.

"The video game industry has been through this cycle several times before (most notably following the Columbine and Virginia Tech incidents) with no apparent impact on game sales. At this point, we think most adults have fairly well-formed opinions on the dangers, or lack thereof, posed by video games."

Creutz notes that titles in both the Call of Duty and Halo series have continued to sell well on Amazon in the last week, suggesting that the tragedy hasn't had an impact on video game shooter sales -- at least, not in the short-term.

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