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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.

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