Microsoft Confirms Locking New Zealand Kids Out From Xbox Live

xbox-live-nz-kids-banBad news for under-18 gamers across the Tasman. Microsoft has verified the recent banning of New Zealand kids from Xbox Live downloads is all part of their plan.

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?



Comments

    Honestly the fewer kids crying into their mics in Cod4 the better.

      Do you kick puppies as well?

        Only the really annoying ones. Like Pugs.

        Fucking pugs

        I dont evens have a XBox (well I sold it and got me a PS3), this is something good...hope Sony do the same...

      I totally agree. They should implement this all over the world, not just in NZ.

      This restriction has no bearing on your grievance. Best bet is not to play in the children's playground

    A Penny Arcade comic for every situation! http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/03/20/

    Perhaps they really will eventually make it such that you can only buy games for your age bracket, so come midnight of your 15th birthday, the entire Live store is open to you! It's like being allowed to run around in a toy store and pick whatever you like, for money of course.

    (on a second read through, that seems to be what they're aiming for).

    I'm tossing up between whether this is a good system or not in the long run. I never really understood the "bing! you can now drink yourself silly whereas yesterday you couldn't" clause, but if it works for some things, would it work here? If parents aren't using ratings or parental locks as they should be, is this the way to go? DLC isn't a huge thing at the moment, but what if fully downloadable games finally catches on and now you have Xbox Live stopping you from buying the game rather than the games clerk (who may or may not enforce things currently).

    TL;DR - crap implementation, potentially good idea though very easily bypassable. Blame the parents? And Michael Atkinson (I so hope he doesn't pick up on this and try and push it in Australia).

    Ding!

      Thanks for the Penny Arcade link, Sing!

      There's a few selfish commenters here who'd do well to read it.

        You need to take it easy tiger. Nobody is actually being serious about banning kids from playing on Live.

        Obviously its a stupid thing that Microsoft has done. Now let us have our fun and get off your horse.

    Yet New Zealand has an R18+ rating and we don't? What the hell is going on in the Southern Hemisphere?

      Just more of the usual nonsense that they know will draw the ire of the 'angry' gamer garnering death threats to Atkinson and his ilk. Which as usual makes the majority of us who go about things in a more sensible manner look like uncivilized thugs.

    Lets hope they do the same here :P

      Sigh. These are all real mature comments, guys.

    A few months ago I'd be up in arms about this... but I'm 18 now so I dont care.

      Did you read that Penny Arcade link?

    Sense, this make none!

    Maybe they're looking at using NZ as a test bed for this new "feature", given the smaller number of users and a reduced chance of massive backlash. Doing this in the states would've probably triggered all sorts of fun legal amusement.

    I do have to agree you here David. It doesn't really feel like the right solution for the problem here.
    I hope you get a response from Microsoft after pressing them to answer the questions.

    This is a insane move by MS, i really can't beleive it. I mean no announcment or anything? Just dropping NZ gamers in the dark and expecting them to deal with it.

    Kind of really makes me worried that this may then move over to Australia. Who knows where it will go from there! Hell they may even work it so that we can't access games banned in australia, so no more importing?

      I've asked Microsoft if this could happen in other countries, but they have yet to respond. It's a real concern.

        Sony has in a way already addressed this with sub accounts & thier management through the 'parent' account, you cant even log into home with an account under a certain 'age', typical M$, wait untill the horse has bolted then shut the gate.

        Very keen to hear the response David

    fewer kids on xbox live

    clap, clap, clap, i salute u Bill Gates
    !

      i never knew bill gates is the one who decides over such changes xD, thanks for enlightening me :o

    Please explain to me why everybody is freaking out. This is already common practice in video game retail stores - mature rated games are already not sold to minors - right? So then why is doing it on xbox live too such a huge next step?

    "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."

    This means they are only stopping ALL gamesales at the moment because they haven't fixed the issues which will allow them to select which games not to sell to underage customers. Right?

      Temporary solution or not, it's still ridiculous that a 17 year old now cannot download a demo for a G-rated game when that same 17 year old can walk into any store and buy an M-rated game.

      Microsoft may well have good intentions here, but they're totally dropped the ball on its implementation.

    Is it possible this is Microsoft covering their asses? I believe that the R18+ rating in New Zealand is legally enforced, and retailers who distribute material with an R18+ classification to minors can be hit with fairly significant fines. It would be all over the internet if they did get fined, and that would fairly quickly tarnish the whole family-friendly line they've been talking up, especially in the US recently when they were grandstanding about how good their parental lock system was.

    There's an easy solution for those affected though. Create another adult silver-level account. If you want to purchase DLC or XLBA games or whatnot, then you use a prepaid points card to get the MSP to buy it. Your account doesn't need to be logged in on the system to access the downloaded content when it's being played on the system you purchased the content on. I use the same work-around personally to purchase DLC off the Japanese XBLM. The only downside is that people with points in their existing accounts will not be able to use them. If you can't wait for MS to fix that up, then do what they suggest and get a refund.

    This would not work to stop under 18s from accessing mature content. they will either create a new account and lie about their age or just get someone to get it for them under their own mature account or something.

    this will change nothing. its the parents that need to watch and take interest in what their kids are playing and watching.

    First Conroy's talk of blocking access to online games featuring "mature content" (which in Australia of course means anything not suitable for a 16 year old), and now Microsoft walls off XBLA access to everyone in NZ under the age of 18 to prevent them accessing "mature content". This at a time where governments the world over are aggressively pushing the "3 strikes" system and mandatory internet filtering.

    I'm not so much worried about this latest announcement/discovery, but more where all of this is taking us.

      I'm thinking someone should redo a modern version of the book 1984, except rename it as '2009. : /

      I'm sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist here, but is MS possibly in on the whole interenet-blocking scheme in their games?

      Is this an international scheme, but are using NZ as a testing ground?
      Or is it just the NZ government trying to ban mature games like Conroy wanted to do?

      Though I'm hopeful that MS is just implementing a system where child-accounts cannot access Mature rated games, and that they blocked child accounts from any games completely due to difficulties in adding this 'filter' to their systems. Although it does not explain why they just dropped it on NZ without warning, and still are not being 100% clear on wtf is going on.

      And I worry about your concerns, too, diode. Though I won't say anything becuase I think that subject isn't related to this article. :)

    I am lucky that I just turned 18 a week before this problem came up. I had the problem for a few weeks until I saw the Promote Child Account in Account Info. Too bad little kidies hehe

    I really do laugh at all my comrades in nz, im 17, i have my legit birthdate in place but for some reason it says im an adult so i can download stuff im so happy :D

    Yes! Thank god I live in NZ. I am so sick of kids on XBL. It is impossible to play anything even remotely popular without them ruining it for the rest of us.

      You then also get the adults who ruin it for the kids.

      Face it, you adults aren't as "controlled" as you claim to be. Your swearing goes out of hand, and you unknowingly teach bad "manners" and hacks/exploits to us "kids", which in turn, ruins it for you. And you say we ruin XBL for you. You can say that you've ruined it for yourself.

    Hmm i can't say i'm happy about this being a minor myself but i guess we have been given a lot of free roam when we actually shouldn't be.

    Oh well i'm turning 15 in two months and i don't really play online anyway =P and i live in Australia.

    As for those with issues having games ruined by kids, I agree. However, maybe instead of blocking under 18s, Microsoft should be trialling an under 18 version of Live? It'd keep most of the kids off OUR playground, and they could still have their demos and online play.

    Either that or NZ kids can start bitching until they get PS3s. Whatever works.

    hmmmmm i wonder if i can just call up xbox customer support and say im moving to Australia........they might wonder why im calling from a +64 number lol

    i think this is bull shit im 17 and cant download some map packs not even a fucking kids game demo
    i think thay sould make it a under 15 block cause at lest that way i can get my fucking maps

    i think this has gone on to long now ive gone threw 2 xbox's and the ban's still going

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