PSA: When Signing Up for Xbox Live, Lie About Your Kid’s Age

Crying Kid (Children shown in image are not actual age ... lol)

My nine year old son and I play video games together. A lot of video games. So many in fact, that I decided a while back to buy him his own Xbox 360 so we could play System Link games together. Halo co-op is a lot more fun when every player doesn’t have to share half his screen with the other guy.

Tommy and I are huge fans of Crackdown. We own two copies of the game and have played through it together a bunch of times, and we were both excited to get our grubby mitts on Crackdown 2. Unlike Crackdown 1, Crackdown 2 didn’t work over System Link so I had to cave in and buy the kid his own $50/year Xbox Live Gold Account. As if it’s not expensive enough having bought two Xbox 360s, and a bunch of copies of various System Link-able games, now I’m having to shell out $50/year for the kid to play certain titles with his old man.

Enter … Battlefield 1943

Just about every weekend, Tommy and I play EA’s online FPS Battlefield 1943 together, taking turns by passing the controller between us. About a month ago, I decided I’d had enough of playing hotseat and decided to get the kid his own copy of the game for his Xbox 360 on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

I paid Microsoft $14.99 for 1200 points to buy the game, and used the points to purchase the game on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The game downloaded fine without any warnings and I started the game up.

Since the game is an EA title, I had the misfortune to have to deal with’s online game authentication. Tommy didn’t play any EA online games prior to BF1943, so I had to create an account for him. I went through the steps and hit the Connect button and the game just sat there endlessly spinning it’s “Connecting…” indicator.

I waited 15 minutes, reset the Xbox 360 and tried again with the same result. I tried this probably a dozen times over the day, and never got any closer to getting into the game.

I contacted EA support about the issue, and was advised to download another EA online game demo and use it to create the user account. I downloaded the latest iteration of Madden and started it up. I was presented the EA Terms of Service agreement and when I hit the button to accept the terms, I was told I had to be at least 13 to play EA games online.


At no point during my purchase of BF1943 using my son’s account was I warned that there were any age requirements for the game. There’s a standard ESRB rating on the game of T — but those are a guideline to inform parents — not a lawful minimum age to play games online. Halo and Crackdown are both rated M, and I play those with my nine year old all the time; this may not make me the greatest parent ever, but it’s harmless fun and he’s smart enough to know that what’s happening on screen is as real as a Bugs Bunny cartoon.


I contacted EA about the issue and had a less-than-helpful online chat with someone named “Kate.” I requested one of two things: A refund, or for them to make the game playable. She refused both requests. Her bottom-line response was “I am sorry but we are unable to do anything in this regard.”


The only thing Kate said she could offer was a $20 credit to the Store, which contains a bunch of stuff I don’t want. In fact, I could buy Tommy another Xbox 360 game he couldn’t play online — terrific!


If you think contacting Microsoft went any better, you’d be mistaken. I asked them for pretty much the same thing that I asked EA – refund or make the game work. I got a reply from two support reps now, and both were equally unhelpful.

The first, Bella, responded:

I understand that you would like to either get a refund or change the age on the account. Please know that I understand how important this is to you. Rest assured the I will do my best to help and/or provide you options for this concern.

Please know that purchases made on the Marketplace are final and non-refundable. Prior to downloading an item from the Marketplace, it provides the game rating and classification. And as with the age on the account, please know that it is one important detail that cannot be change. Xbox LIVE determines whether an account is a child account or an adult account based on the age of the account owner. An Xbox LIVE account can only be changed to an adult account after the account owner reaches legal adult age. It is part of Microsoft’s responsibility in providing a fun and safe gaming environment.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t been helped, and have definitely not been provided any options beyond “pound sand”

The second email I got after protesting the first is even less helpful, boiling down to:

I understand that you cannot play games in Xbox live because the type of account and the game that you want to play. Moreover you want to request for a refund or change your age saved in your account. The option that you want us to process is not available. If you have further concern you may submit your feedback at our website.


Let this be a lesson to all of us — don’t use your kids’ real ages when you create Xbox Live Gold accounts for them, or you’ll find yourself with a fine collection of EA games you can’t play online. I’m glad Tommy’s on a 12-month Xbox Live Gold card and I’m going to double- and triple-check that it’s not set to auto-renew because I’m sure as hell not wasting any more money on that.

What pisses me off is that I’ve had a Gold Xbox Live Account for nine years now, and *this* is the level of support I’m getting for an issue that’s completely not my fault? It’s really terrible and I would hope that companies as big as these guys would have some kind of system for dealing with legitimate problems not created by the teenage racist assholes they usually have to deal with but so far that hasn’t been the case. I’m hoping by making this public that someone from either EA or Microsoft contacts me with some kind of solution that will resolve this to my satisfaction.

21 Responses to “PSA: When Signing Up for Xbox Live, Lie About Your Kid’s Age”

  1. Great post, Thom. Parental controls are a valuable part of the “new media experience” but when they get in the way people are just going to stop using them.

    I have a similar tale, although it has just resulted in inconvenience rather than being restricted from using services we’ve paid for – when I signed up my (then under-13) son for Live / Zune I was required to link a parental account. Now I have to sign in whenever he wants to change anything on his account, and it just plain breaks the Zune software whenever a new version is released (we both have to sign in via the website before it will work in the software). He’s 16 in a couple of months, it’s kind of ridiculous.

  2. That’s obnoxious. And it’s not like you didn’t read any fine print or something – it’s their system that is faulty and screwed up. Hope you get this stuff sorted out.

  3. I got a reply from @xboxsupport and it’s just as lame as all the replies I’ve gotten so far:

    @superthom I understand your concern, but we’re unable to bend our policies or work around EA’s. My sincere empathy for that situation ^JD!/XboxSupport/status/47382969786171392

  4. UPDATE: Got an email from a new Xbox Customer Support rep who’s contacting me by phone tomorrow, so hopefully something will come from that.

    Thanks to everyone who retweeted, etc. :)

  5. My younger brother has had this exact same issue. It’s really bad as the age gating didn’t seem to exist when he signed up – it’s only on newer games.

  6. While I agree that EA should have been more helpful, I can’t understand your frustration with Microsoft or Xbox Live here. XBox live has nothing to do with a game you chose to purchase from a third party developer. All the information that EA used to deny access to their servers was provided by you to them. I don’t see where Microsoft should be held responsible for a bad transaction between two other parties.

    It’s almost like a parent asking Microsoft for money back for an XBL account because somebody called their kid a mean name, or kept sinking their battleship, thereby denying full enjoyment of the game. Obviously that’s apples and oranges, but my point is that if you can’t access the service because of a failure on Microsoft’s part, I get it. But to not renew your account because one developer has a bad policy and won’t let you play the game seems a bit like burning the car because a road is closed.

    Why don’t you simply tell them you inadvertently input the wrong age?

  7. I actually blame Microsoft more than EA just because they’re the ones handling the money. On top of paying (now) $60 a year to use Xbox Live, they’re also the people who I’m paying money to for points, and the people responsible for cashing in those points and unlocking games for the Xbox Live account I’m paying for. They need to be responsible for the service I’m paying money to use, and crying “no refunds!” doesn’t help their loyal and screwed customers.

    MS should refund the money and talk to EA and say “we revoked the license for this user, we’re not giving you their money” if they want to be a responsible shop owner and continue selling products in their Marketplace.

    I’m not asking for a refund because of some stupid reason; I’m asking for a refund because the product Microsoft sold me is not compatible with the Xbox Live account it’s been downloaded on, and as the gatekeeper they need to be held accountable.

  8. [...] Why not check out our latest vidcast – GamePron News Season 2, Episode 6! Tell your [...]

  9. Great blog, When the time comes make sure to double check the renew subscription is disabled on the account. I grew tired of Microsoft’s antics and decided that I didn’t want to pay for another year of Xbox Live. I logged into my Xbox Live account and disabled the renew option so my credit card wouldn’t get charged. Months later I’m looking over my credit card statements and noticed a renew fee for $60 was charged to my credit card from Xbox Live. Since I was under the impresion that I had cancel the subscription a month before my current subscription expired I never even bothered to log in to my Xbox Account again. I figured this had to be a mistake on Microsoft’s part so I immediately called to resolve the issue and after I had explained to them that I had disabled the renew the Xbox Live Rep said that they couldn’t refund me the $60 because more then 60 days had passed since the renew. I “again” explained that I had disabled the renew and it should had never happened in the 1st place yet the Xbox Live Rep stood firm on their position of no refunds. I’ve since contacted my credit card company and they are in the process of retrieving those funds for me. I’ve since moved on to the Sony PS3 with free online to play your games and everything Apple. Thank you Microsoft for forcing me into Sony and Apple’s arms. I actually like it here :-)

  10. “At no point during my purchase of BF1943 using my son’s account was I warned that there were any age requirements for the game.”

    I do not wish to be rude, but to put this simply, you are wrong. Here’s a screenshot of what you see before you purchase a game on the Xbox 360 console:

    That text box in the bottom right corner is standard on any content purchase you make on the 360. It’s in the same spot every time, so there is no trickery with it being hidden. It is always there and you can scroll through it with the right analog stick of the 360 controller to read it at your own pace and not miss any details. The entire text that is displayed there for Battlefield 1943 is as follows:

    “(Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB) Battlefield 1943 is a multiplayer-only game that lets you enjoy the thrills of Pacific WW2 battles! Pick your path – be it as a rifleman, a steel fisted tank commander, or ace fighter pilot dog fighting to protect the skies. Play as a lone wolf or with your friends, coordinating to turn the tide of battle. This game requires the Xbox 360 hard drive for storage. There are no refunds for this item. Multiplayer only. For more information, see REGISTRATION AND GOLD SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED. EA ONLINE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND FEATURE UPDATES ARE FOUND AT YOU MUST BE 13+ TO REGISTER WITH EA ONLINE. EA MAY PROVIDE CERTAIN INCREMENTAL CONTENT AND/OR UPDATES FOR NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE, IF AND WHEN AVAILABLE. EA MAY RETIRE THIS GAME AFTER 30 DAYS NOTICE POSTED ON There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see”

    It says that “REGISTRATION AND GOLD SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED” and that “YOU MUST BE 13+ TO REGISTER WITH EA ONLINE.” Simply put, they DID warn you about the age requirement before you purchased this game for your son. I can only guess that you didn’t read it for some reason. Maybe you didn’t even notice it; maybe you thought it was just the standard “online interactions not rated, no refunds, etc” blurb without any other important info you needed to know and decided not to dig deeper into it; I really don’t know. But regardless, the point is that they did in fact tell you of this age requirement before you made a purchase.

    And in short, because of that, I don’t think you’re entitled to a refund here. Again, I don’t wish to be rude, I just think it’s fair to get ALL of the facts out there. EA and Microsoft did tell you about the age requirement, and you simply didn’t notice it for whatever reason. That is not their fault and they don’t owe you anything. In fact, that $20 EA Store credit was a generous offer, even if there was nothing on their store you wanted. It was $20 more than they needed to offer you considering all of the facts of this situation.

    So yeah. I hope you’ll consider this information before you try to keep spreading this incorrect story about not being told about age requirements before you bought the game. EA and Microsoft did nothing wrong here, and it’s unfair to make them out as bad guys who were out to deceive you when you are the one who didn’t read all of the pre-purchase information provided to you before you confirmed your purchase.

  11. But…Microsoft didn’t sell you that game..EA did. Sure, MS gets a cut, you pay MS directly, but they dont control the functions of the hundreds of games available for online play. I mean, you can’t hold Gamestop accountable if you buy a PC game made by EA from them and EA denies you access to the server. Don’t see why XBL should be any different. Bottom line is that EA policy, good or bad, is not MS or XBL responsibility. You get to choose which games you buy…right?

    Anyways, I’m kind of playing devils advocate. Love the post and it sucks the way EA treated you. Just trying to provide a bit of perspective.

  12. who would buy a game like that for the nine year old?

    go QQ somewhere else

  13. Sympathy for what you’ve gone through there, my son is starting to get to where he probably will be wanting his own console to play on too.

    I hold both parties at fault here – EA for not making it clear that <13 *cannot* play the game, and Microsoft because they are the shop-front that sold it. Quincy asks if you would complain to GameStop if you bought a game there and found that EA wouldn't let you play it – well, frankly yes I would – my sales contract is with GameStop and I would have relied on them to ensure that games sold by them had any restrictions made plainly visible. When I bought Half Life 2 many many moons ago, the guy in "Game" went to great lengths to make sure I was aware it wouldn't play without an active internet connection, for example, and that's what I see as the *right* approach here.

    In my view, Microsoft should have reviewed the entry on the shop, found that it actually doesn't make it clear that <13 years old will be refused the ability to play the game, refunded the amount (can't expect them to change EA's policy and I can understand why they wouldn't have any processes that permit the age of an account holder to be changed – though that said, what if you got it wrong in the first place and simply called them and said "it says i'm under 13, but i'm 31, I must have typed it in wrong, sorry…) – but then Microsoft should have undergone an internal review to ensure that any games with *actual* limits (as opposed to guidelines) should be flagged as such.

    As you say, the markings shown on the game would be seen by the average person as the normal guidance and in my view it is always completely up to the parent if they feel they want to go against those guidelines. Perhaps EA should be making it so that it is possible to ring them up and authorise a childs account some how, or by having it linked with another XBL account that *is* older than the minimum age and have that account grant permission.

    Either way, it's obviously wrong at the moment.

    Jack – why buy a game like that for a 9 year old? Well gee, let's make sure they don't watch the news or road-runner etc. Sometimes being a parent means actually educating your children, making decisions about whether you feel your child is actually capable of understanding what they're seeing and doing in the right context – ok some parents don't care and would just authorise or just say no so they don't have to be bothered by it, but are we trying to be a nanny state here were we aim for the lowest common denominator in all things? I take an active roll in my kids upbringing, right now I don't even let my kids watch me play certain games, but I already know that my son (7) is very much aware of the difference based on conversations we've had and comments he's made (and indeed other games he plays – i.e. he'll happily crash trains in a train simulator but when he gets on his model railway he treats it like gold), and when he's a bit older I am sure he'll be able to play responsibly, if he so wishes. You're not a bad parent because you say yes, you're a bad parent if you say yes without properly considering it and then keeping a close eye on things – i.e. *being a parent* – not just one of those biologically related babysitters that some parents end up being.

    Thom, interested to hear how you get on.

  14. @mjc0961 : Thanks for the comment. If that text was there, I did totally miss it. In my defense, I already owned a copy of the game that I’d purchased the day it was released on the 360 and I didn’t really feel the need to read what’s usually just boilerplate text, especially since I didn’t realize it would actually “know” the account holder’s date of birth.

    In fact, I just created a new Xbox Live account tonight and I seem to recall the screen where I entered the date of birth saying that that information wasn’t shared … which might be incorrect because it certainly appears that while that information isn’t publicly shared as part of the Xbox Live profile, it certainly appears that it’s being shared with EA when prompting the user to accept their TOS.

    And honestly, how strictly is that sort of age gate honestly applied? What I’ve grown used to is a field on a web page that I can enter whatever I have to to get through the page. I’ve told Valve my birthday is 1/1/1900 more times than I can count. Even if I had read that text, I wouldn’t have expected being completely locked out of the game.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  15. @Thom: I find that rather amusing that you mention that. They have the age limits for such games and are in fact ready to enforce them… yet they still allow these games to be purchased by those under the age limit.

  16. [...] against my refund; he argued with several users on The Escapist’s site and also left a lengthy comment here on my site with his thoughts. I feel like the screenshot he posted shows text stating “YOU MUST BE 13+ [...]

  17. I think the really important part isn’t that there is or is not a notice that your Xbox account needs to be registered to some one 13+ to play the game. But more the fact that you can purchase the game and download it on an account that doesn’t meet the stated requirements.

    The fact you can’t by booze or smokes below a certain age doesn’t mean that a place selling either of those products can take the money an under aged person produces and then hand them an empty package stating their under age and can not legally use the products.

    How hard would it be for Microsoft to do an age check before finalizing the transaction? If the account is held by someone under age then they get a pop-up stating they can’t purchase the game. Problem solved.

  18. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back down the road. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice holiday weekend!
    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome site!
    My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different website and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.
    I really like what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and exposure! Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.
    Hi I am so happy I found your webpage, I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Digg for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a remarkable post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the great job.

  19. I was very pleased to search out this web-site.I wanted to thanks to your time for this excellent read!! I undoubtedly having fun with every little little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you weblog post.

  20. Y8 Games 24…

    [...]LMNOpc » Blog Archive » PSA: When Signing Up for Xbox Live, Lie About Your Kid’s Age[...]…

  21. I am rather new to the blogging universe and I’m curious which CMS suits my needs best? Some folks have suggested me to have a look at Blogger. Do you personally think Blog Engine is better?