November 7, 2007 10:50 AM PST

Microsoft aims to make Xbox more family-friendly

Microsoft aims to make Xbox more family-friendly
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Microsoft on Wednesday showed off a new Xbox feature that will allow parents to set the amount of time that kids can play games.

The move is part of the company's effort to broaden the reach of the Xbox 360 to include more families. The company also recently introduced a lower-priced Xbox 360 Arcade model that skips a hard drive, but includes a handful of casual games like Pac-Man and Uno. Microsoft is also working to expand its Viva Pinata title into a franchise of products aimed at younger kids.

"All of those things are starting to make Xbox a much broader gaming world than it was even six months ago," Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices unit said in an interview.

The move comes ahead of an important holiday selling season, with consoles from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft all now in volume production. Nintendo's Wii has been the surprise hit, but Sony has dropped the price of the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft is counting on Halo 3 and other titles to help boost its holiday sales.

Bach said the ability to set time limits on children's gaming should help parents feel more comfortable with having a game console in the house.

"At the same time, I think it does more than just make people feel good," Bach said. "I think when we talk to parents, when we talk to them about things that would matter to them as a purchase criteria, family settings in general certainly make the list, and time controls has been one of the things people have been talking about for a few years now."

The new feature, which will be available in a few weeks, is also designed to be easy for parents who may not be as technologically savvy as their game-playing offspring. "It's really, really easy," Bach said. "You go to family settings. You go to timer. You say daily or weekly. You pick a number of hours and you are done."

This is just one of a number of areas in which Microsoft is hoping to make the Xbox 360 attractive to a broader range of customers than its traditional base, which Bach noted tends to be older than those that use rival consoles, such as the Wii and the PlayStation 3. There's work that can be done in terms of game development, improvements to the console, additions to its Xbox Live online gaming as well as new types of peripherals.

Another thing Microsoft needs to do, Bach said, is find more ways to make the console cheaper to produce. "That's something we need to do over the life cycle to continue to make the business work," he said, "so, over time (we can) bring down prices."

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Red Ring of Death?
For me, the Red Ring of Death controls how much my family is able to play our 360, it dies so often then it hardly ever gets play time.
Posted by capfan12 (101 comments )
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are you exaggerating a bit
I have a 360 since launch and it has yet to have any issues. people buy more games for 360 then wii and ps3 combined <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> if it breaks at the rate you say that wouldn't make sense
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
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Excellent news
I have two young daughters. I wanted to buy an XBox 360, but I could not find any titles for it that would appeal to a 6 and 4 year old. We bought a Wii instead, and we are very happy with our choice. However I still want an XBox 360, and will buy one when there are games for it that my young girls want to play.
Posted by dechah (26 comments )
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Right.... so parents partially don't buy a game console because they parent does not have any control to set time limits for their children? Parents have been setting time limits since the sun came up. Back in the NES days, and even before, I had time limits on not only game systems, but other things, like staying out late, or at a swimming pool.

If the parents' only recourse is to set a time limit on the console, I think that's the least of their worries. Most of these systems are in the kids' room these days anyway.

Besides, how many people use the time limits on the TV with that wonderful V-chip?

And does the Wii have a time limit on it? Why is it so successful with new gaming families? Maybe based on the content of the game? There is not yet a mandatory Microsoft tax that everyone has to pay, so if you want money, you'd better have the content.
Posted by mikeburek (418 comments )
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family gaming, mom says yes
As a mom whose kids has 3 game consoles in the house and a gamefly account, I would say it's about time Microsoft realize the xbox is not just for kids anymore. The game timer is good idea. That's normally my job ;).
The Wii was the first console that really reintroduce me to gaming. Have you seen seniors playing Wii, they love it. Since we got the Wii we've been having family gaming nights were the whole gang battles it out with a new game every week. This is when I let sarah and jason convince me to get the gamefly account. Good thing, it's actually saved us a ton over renting from blockbuster, not to mention the cost buying new games. I'm excited to see what other new features will make the xbox more family friendly.
Posted by sunnybellows (5 comments )
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This is great.
I will actually get to play one of the two Xbox 360's in my house now. My brothers are always playing all day. About time, Microsoft... about time.
Posted by AdamExplosion (4 comments )
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