Over the weekend, an Epic Games forum post broke the news of a Microsoft policy change for virtual “gun-like” accessories for Xbox Live avatars. The change means that items such as the Gears of War Lancer chainsaw/assault rifle and Hammerburst rifle will no longer be available to buy for Xbox Live avatars starting Jan 1.

So why is Microsoft making the change? As we surmised, the company is trying to address the sensitivities of the all-ages audience that is increasingly using the Xbox 360.

The company responded to our inquiry today with this statement explaining its reasoning.

Xbox LIVE Marketplace has updated its policies to provide further clarity for third-party publishers submitting content for approval. This includes details about weapons such as firearms. Xbox LIVE has always reserved the right to reject or expire from the marketplace any type of weapon prop content that is deemed unsuitable for its general audience. Because the Xbox LIVE Marketplace is accessible to members of all ages, it is important our policies clearly address what content is available to all. This policy provides additional clarity to publishers in advance of the content review process.

According to the Epic post, Xbox Live users will be able to keep any of the virtual items purchased before the policy goes into effect. The policy applies to accessories for the avatars that represent Xbox Live users, not to games themselves.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Guest

    Thank you to Microsoft for clarifying this policy. Just as I wouldn’t want to see a 12-year-old child walking around with a firearm, so too do I not want my 12-year-old child to purchase virtual firearms with which to equip his avatar. I already control what my child is permitted to play; it is only natural that I be able to control that like which he wishes to appear.

    • Blindside1973

      Don’t you control his *purchases* as well, or is your 12 year-old independently wealthy?

      I can see how virtual firearms and real firearms are similar. Actually, I don’t.

      BTW, lots of 12 year-olds walk around with firearms. It’s called ‘hunting’. My 12 year-old has his own rifle and has been taught to safely use it. He doesn’t view it as a toy nor as an object of fascination because he has been exposed to firearms.

      But guns are scary. Right?

      • Guest

        Guns are scary, Bob. I will not have my child exposed to products which are specifically designed to kill animals, including other humans. What you do to your child is your own business. I simply ask that you keep your destructive behaviour confined to your own family and that you do not expose yourselves to my child.

        Microsoft understands and sympathizes with me. Thank you, Microsoft.

        • Concerned American

          Ugh you have to be a democrat.

          • Jim98122x

            It’s call parental supervision.  Sounds pretty non-partisan to me.  Sort of like the option to home-school your kid, or opt out of sex education, or say “no” to vaccinations, etc.– all decisions frequently made by conservatives. 
            Or is parental supervision only OK to have when it pertains to more right-leaning issues?

            If preserving a parent’s right to say what’s good for their kid is “democrat”, then we need more democrats.

          • http://twitter.com/jclaussftw Jason Gerard Clauss

            Guest sounds like a nancy-boy. I bet he’s in touch with his sensitive side.

          • Anonymous

            Nothing wrong with getting in touch with your sensitive side. Guest is just being a troll/hippy/uptight parent.

        • InnerNirvana

          You need to make up your mind. If you wish Blindside to stop judging your parenting style, than you need to stop judging his. And you did in both your original post “Just as I wouldn’t want to see a 12-year-old” and in your second “your destructive behavior”. Based on your words, you’ve opened yourself up for judgement.

  • Johnny Gee

    So while i’m nuking planets and blowing away 300 people a night on various games, I guess i won’t have to worry about my avatar shooting up the virtual waiting room for avatars.  Give me a break you bunch of hipocrits. I believe I will let my Xbox 360 live account run out, with no renewal. Good riddance.

    • Guest

      Your avatar is not used in lobbies for M-rated games.

  • Tom M

    I can’t believe this change.  Who cares how I use my avatar?  I have some other changes.  I take offense to the color of blue and orange.  I want them gone from any avatar.  I also want any religious items to be removed.  I think football should be banned too.  It is very violent.

  • rtcell

    Being afraid of inanimate objects (guns, stones, baseball bats, knives, forks, falling trees, automobiles, dark clouds, water, whatever) should be treated by a good shrink.

    Raising kids and controlling what they do is parent’s responsibility, not 3rd parties.

    To be consistent , Microsoft also needs to bans plastic guns, cancel the HALO franchise, remove guns and knives and violence from ALL games developed and sold my Microsoft, and shows, and stop donating money to policians who wage wars.

    • Guest

      The games of the Halo franchise are rated M. My child’s Xbox 360 cannot play M-rated games unless I specifically authorise it to do so. Therefore, my child does not play the Halo games.

      Ratings, Ryan, are a parent’s most trusted ally in the war on child corruption.

      • Guest

        No, the most trusted ally is doing your own homework on it. Before, the vchip, ratings, etc, my folks had the best rating system: they simply looked at it first and decided. I saw some shows others didnt and missed some others saw based on if they felt I was mature enough to handle it.

        Look at todays kids movies and tv shows. Rated for all but I wouldnt let my 6 year old see it.

        From your view point I assume you dont let them see the news as well?

  • http://blog.sentientmonkey.com Scott Windsor

    Seems like a bit too over-protective for me. I learned to shoot a gun when I was 12. I was also taught that guns aren’t toys, and to respect them. The larger issue here I think is making sure that parents are aware of what their children are playing, etc. Should a kid have a gun on their avatar? I’d say that’s up to parents to choose and parental controls should likely be in place. I don’t see anything wrong with having kids see other avatars with guns – that seems a bit ridiculous. They’re more likely to see guns on TV, movies, & magazines. And if your child is playing video games with guns (or watching shows or movies with guns), you should teach them about guns. Pretending they don’t exist is just lazy parenting.

    • Guest

      Nobody said they were pretending guns don’t exist.  When I was a kid, I wanted a BB gun. My parents didn’t pretend BB guns didn’t exist, they just said “no”.  That’s all this parent is doing. 

      Don’t presume to know what’s best for his/her kid, just let them parent they way they see fit.  How you raise your own kids is your business.

  • Anonymous

    So tiresome to once again see people being unable to recognize that almost everyone in the world understands the difference between real objects and pixels.  A simple lesson in reality testing– Take a rough guess at what the percentage change in video game playing (including games with themes of violence) has occurred over the past 20 years.  Next, examine briefly the real-world statistics on actual interpersonal violence in the populations playing most of those games.  (Hint: graphs would look like a sharp upward slope of the former and a gentle downward slope for the latter.)  Try to draw appropriate conclusions.  That being said, the amount of time I spend thinking about or doing anything with my Xbox avatar or anyone else’s is pretty limited.

  • Guest

    I don’t think this is worth getting too worked up about.

    This does not limit your choice of content, or restrict what you allow your kids to play. Nor does it put any limits what you may do to your in-game avatars in mature titles like COD, Gears, Battlefield, or Halo. It’s certainly not a statement about gun ownership.

    It’s simply about what is appropriate to display in a public setting. Since XBLA Avatars are visible to all members regardless of age, some moderation is in order as more and more families join Xbox Live. 

    Outfitting your gun-toting Avatar would in the real world be the equivalent not just of purchasing a gun, but strapping said gun to your hip and strolling through the local mall.  Some people might think it’s cool, but others will be uncomfortable.

  • Jake

    I would like to say that Im 13 and I play “M” rated games all the time and I have no violent intentions to effect another person in any way but what i also think is that instead of removing weapons how about microsoft just edits the perental controls (if they can) so parents can control what virtual items their children can buy. yes i know im too young to be playing these games but its not like the majority of kids my age that play (any console) games dont play “M” rated games so microsoft insted of removing virtual weapons try to do an update to edit parental controls so if parents dont care what their children play or purchase then children can do what they want.any ways thats my opinion and i think it has a good point.

    • Guest

      Actually, parental controls already do control what virtual items children can purchase.  Content items for game titles are controlled by the same rating as the game itself, and so parents can block these purchases if they choose to do so.

      However, as I stated above, the issue here not about what content parents may allow their children to purchase or not purchase (at their discretion). The issue is that an XBLA Avatar is visible to everyone on Xbox Live, regardless of age, and so some content restrictions are probably useful.  

    • Anonymous


  • Jms1620

    @2238431ba7a0bc66dc958bcc70a7b102:disqus  The parental controls should be at the console and not at the service level,  if they are truly parental controls. What XBOX should have done is provided better parental controls. After all, Its the PARENTS responsibility to supervise their children, not an online service. Make time to supervise your own offspring and stop expecting everyone else to do it. I do! Its not that hard. And really, if you were actually that concerned, why did you get your kid an xbox 360? Seriously, if your goal was to protect your kid form the evils of this big bad world, you failed. Now, people like you, instead of expecting someone to fix the problem that you created by your misinformed purchase, you should sell the xbox (trust me, the avatar is the least of your concerns) and get your kid a WII.  

  • http://twitter.com/jclaussftw Jason Gerard Clauss

    Boy what a lame society we live in. If I had a kid they’d be learning firearms safety at age 5.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jackie-Debs/1330149028 Jackie Debs

    It’s so sad that microsoft is willing to sell out like this. Giving the finger to the hardcore, teen to adult gamer base that made the xbox what it is. As soon as the wii started moving more units, microsoft dropped everything and made us all get bubbly childish avatars, and started with their gimmicky kinect project. They now are bending over backwards to cater to their little soccer moms and children demographic while ignoring the wants and needs of the rest of us.

    FU Microsoft. I will remember this when the next generation of consoles comes out.

Job Listings on GeekWork