Looks like there’s no such thing as a Second Amendment in the world of virtual goods.
A new policy taking effect Jan. 1 will remove “gun-like” items from Microsoft’s Xbox Live Avatar Marketplace, the online store where gamers can buy items to dress up and accessorize their avatars, according to a forum post by a community manager for Epic Games, the company behind the blockbuster Gears of War franchise for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.
Virtual weapons affected by the new policy include the Gears of War Lancer, the combination chainsaw/assault rifle being brandished by my Xbox Live avatar in the accompanying picture.
The policy applies to accessories for the avatars that represent Xbox Live users, not to games themselves. According to the Epic forum post, Xbox Live users will be able to keep any of the virtual items purchased before the policy goes into effect.
No reason was given for the change. In general, however, Microsoft is trying to expand the Xbox 360′s audience even as it continues to appeal to hard-core gamers, which can be a difficult balance to strike. Avatars represent users across the Xbox Live system, raising the possibility that a younger or more family-oriented user of the console might encounter an avatar holding a weapon from a Mature-rated game.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft for confirmation of the news and further details, and we’ll update this post depending on what we hear back.