Currently, all three current-generation consoles have parental controls. Like similar features on televisions and DVD players, the tools for the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 let parents lock out games of a certain rating. Thus, a 35-year-old man could own Gears of War without worrying about his 5-year-old son accidentally playing it.
This morning, Microsoft upped the parental-control ante by officially announcing the long-rumored Family Timer feature for its Xbox 360 console. Based on a similar feature in the Windows Vista operating system, the feature lets parents limit the amount of time a child plays on a daily or weekly basis. Once a child nears the maximum playtime, a reminder will appear on the console to warn the player to save the game soon.
The Family Timer option will be a download from Xbox Live and will be available in December. Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, unveiled it at a Washington, DC event this morning. The event was to promote PACT, "a family contract" being promoted by the Parent Teacher Association as a way "to foster family discussion about screen-ime guidelines." The PACT contract is available for download on the newly revamped family games section of Xbox.com.