Last week Microsoft NZ confirmed to Kotaku their intentions to prevent under-18 year old gamers from downloading age-restricted content from the Xbox LIVE marketplace. However the failed implementation of this policy lead to under-18s from across the country angered by the inability to download anything, including G-rated content.
Last night, long-running consumer affairs TV show “Fair Go”, ran a story about this matter, taking the issue directly to Microsoft after under-agers were not offered any explanations, apologies, nor compensation for the errors that had left child gamers frustrated by the lack of any information from Microsoft. You can watch the show here – Fair Go Episode 24, 29 Jul 2009.
The irony in this growing comedy of errors is that the Fair Go report shows the two 15 year old complainants playing COD4 (a R16 rated game in New Zealand making it illegal for anyone to show or sell this to someone under 16 years of age). Furthermore, under-18 gamers in the official Xbox New Zealand forums are claiming that Microsoft have offered some of them the choice of an Xbox 360 game as compensation, including R16 and R18 titles: Crackdown (R18), Shadowrun (R16), Vampire Rain (R16).
Others are claiming that a 12 month Xbox LIVE Gold subscription can be chosen as compensation, which raises another important question – if Microsoft want under-agers to be prevented from downloading age restricted material from the marketplace, why are under-age gamers permitted to play R16 and R18 games using child Gamertags? One of the two 15 year old complainants from last night’s Fair Go programme has the following list of “last 5 played games” associated with his Gamertag:
Gears of War – R18
Crackdown – R18
Call of duty 4 – R16
Bioshock – R16
Halo 3 – R16
It seems from this whole debacle that there was a lack of foresight and testing before implementation, almost as if New Zealand was used as a test-bed before unleashing this to the rest of the world. While I commend Microsoft for addressing the matter, questions remain about the way in which this was executed, as well as the apparent lack of action over under-agers playing restricted games over LIVE.