As part of a new marketing blitz to promote the Xbox 360 as a "family friendly" video game console, Microsoft on Wednesday rolled out a new feature called Family Timer, which will show up in the Family Settings Screen.
The Timer will let parents limit the number of hours their kids can play the Xbox on a daily or weekly basis. When the time limit is reached, the console will automatically shut off, ostensibly after saving the game.
Microsoft says that more than 90 percent of parents placed restrictions on gaming, and over half the parents surveyed said they would use a timer if it was available. In conjunction with the new feature, the Redmond company is joining with the National PTA to encourage parents to talk with their kids about "screen time."
"The campaign is designed to educate parents on the tools and resources available that can help them manage their family's media use," explained Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division. "The main program was a 20-city bus tour where we visited with parents and showed them how to use the controls on the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and with kids showing them that there are fun games for all ages."
The Family Timer feature is already found in Windows Vista in order to limit the time kids can spend in front of the computer. The previously available parental controls in the Xbox 360 largely revolved around which time of games were allowed to be played based on rating.