Microsoft said on Wednesday it is adding a feature to its Xbox 360 that limits the amount of time children can play video games.
The move comes as the software giant tries to make the Xbox 360 more attractive to mainstream consumers ahead of the holiday buying season that is the biggest time of year for the video game industry.
"As a leader in interactive entertainment, it's Microsoft's responsibility to provide parents with tools they can use to manage their children's video gaming and online experiences, and we have made that a priority from the very start," said Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft.
The new timer dubbed "Family Timer" can be set to limit playing time on a daily or weekly basis, and turns off the console when the time limit is reached. A similar feature is found in Microsoft's Windows Vista computer operating system.
Microsoft research showed that at least 45 percent of parents say that enforcing rules about their children's media consumption creates tension at home. Nearly all families (99 percent) have some rules, but less than half (47 percent) have comprehensive rules concerning access, content and time. The research revealed that only 16 percent of families actually put media-use rules in writing, and 40 percent of parents involve children in related discussions. These new resources should help parents address the issue of media time with their children.
Microsoft also unveiled an initiative with groups such as the National Parent Teacher Association and Boys & Girls Club to educate families about video game content and encourage parents and children to work out rules around gaming.