Although it may come as a shock to some, the day I signed up for my Xbox Live Gold Account I was truthful about my age. At the time, I didn't see any issues that would arise if I did the honest thing. Sure, I created a fake 'parental account' so I could control all the family settings, but I figured at that point I could just turn all of them down to their most lax level and be able to download and play what I wanted without hassle. I would later find out that this was not entirely the case.
The problem arose in the form of downloading M-Rated demos from the Xbox Live Marketplace. I had this issue a year or so ago with the Call of Duty: World at War demo. As I attempted to download the game, I was greeted with the message, “This account is not permitted to download content with this rating.” I was perplexed by this claim. I went back and made sure that I was able to access M-Rated content and found that I should have been able to download anything I wanted from the Marketplace. After several more attempts I gave up and just assumed that you must be 17 years old to download M-Rated demos since that’s when you are legally allowed to purchase M-Rated games. I made the wrong assumption.
I found this out a year later, when I was indeed 17 years old. I don’t recall what the M-Rated demo was, but upon attempting to download it I was reintroduced to the same old rejection message. At this point I did some internet research and found that the only way to download M-Rated demos was to have an ‘adult account’ for users age 18 and up.
This revelation perplexed me. If I was able to purchase these games in a store, why am I being prevented from playing these demos? It’s common knowledge that the ESRB guidelines for an M-Rating is that the game can be sold to 17 year olds. Even then, there should be an option in the parental settings that would give me the ability to download such content. Just as parents can give their children permission to play M-Rated games before they are 17, they should have this same option with game demos. All that it would require would be to have the parent input their account info before the demo begins downloading.
Now let me list a few games that I own DLC for: Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Gears of War 2, Borderlands, and Fallout 3. As I’m sure you were able to ascertain, the common link between all of these games is that they are Rated-M. Now how could I obtain such DLC if I am not able to get my hand on Mature content? Well Microsoft seems to take a different approach when it comes to paid DLC. In that case, they are very willing to take my money and deliver me Mature content. The thing is, I don’t see any difference between downloading an M-Rated demo versus M-Rated DLC. The real kicker is I was able to get a lot of this content when I was still only 16.
What Microsoft has done is create a double standard. In one sense they refuse to deliver free content to someone who is within the age range deemed acceptable for a Mature product. On the other hand, they are willing to sell Mature expansions to accounts that are under the age of 17. Is this because Microsoft doesn’t want to lose revenue? That’s hard to say, but knowing Microsoft it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I’m not saying block that content, just unblock M-Rated demos from 17 year old’s accounts.
As a consumer, I want the most for my money. I am paying $50 a year for my Live subscription and would like to get the most out of that experience. Sure, all I have to do is wait a few more months before the problem becomes void, but that doesn’t prevent that same double standard from being enforced on the rest of the young gamers. I am often told that life’s not fair, but this is one thing that could easily be fixed to make it more fair.