Last week we reported that, after the Xbox Live Update in mid-June, some New Zealand gamers discovered they could no longer download content from Xbox Live Marketplace. Turns out that "some New Zealand gamers" meant every single one of them who had signed up to Live with a child account. If Live knows you're under 18 and live in New Zealand, you cannot even download a demo of a G-rated game.
We asked Microsoft New Zealand what was happening. Here's what they told us:
“Microsoft works with individual consumers to resolve customer concerns. We are working with individuals on this situation. New Zealand customers experiencing any issues can contact Xbox Customer Support for assistance by visiting www.xbox.com/en-nz/support.”
Which, of course, failed to address issues like "Is this a change of policy or a temporary technical issue?" or "It has been suggested that this change was made under pressure from the NZ government. Is that actually the case?" or "What happens to any Microsoft Points a child account had previously purchased or redeemed but has yet to spend?" or indeed any of the other questions we actually put to them.
So we asked again. Specifically, we asked "Who decided it should happen? Is it permanent? Why has Microsoft not explained the policy change to customers? Why are customers who have called the support line being told different information?" And here's what they told us:
* Microsoft has taken an initiative in New Zealand to ensure people under the age of 18 cannot access mature content. * We are working to limit access to content to the appropriate age group in New Zealand. This will take some time due to technical reasons. * We are working to remove the ability for people under the age of 18 to add points until we can resolve this issue. * People affected by this issue can be refunded via our customer call centre, which can be contacted through www.xbox.com/en-nz/support or on 0508 555 592.
Which, frankly, still isn't good enough. We've pressed Microsoft again for a proper explanation as to why they are taking this "initiative" and how it will be implemented. If/when they respond, we will let you know. At least we do now know that it isn't just some temporary glitch in the system. And at least they have promised to refund your points.
While we applaud some efforts Microsoft is taking to make Xbox Live a safe place, we don't think this "initiative" is the right way to go about it. Taking away content your customers have enjoyed for over three years will understandably make them angry. Worse, refusing to explain why such steps have been taken is only going to exacerbate that anger.
Sure, it's easy enough for all those NZ gamers affected to abandon their existing Live account and then setup a new adult account where they lie about their age. But, really Microsoft, is that what you want?