Microsoft educates parents on 20-city bus tour [update 1]

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Microsoft educates parents on 20-city bus tour [update 1]

Beginning today, Microsoft, along with partners Best Buy and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, begins a 20-city bus tour to educate parents on understanding the ESRB ratings scheme and implementing the parental controls built into the Xbox 360 and accompanying Xbox Live service. The project -- sensationally titled "Safety is no game. Is your family set?" -- is being spearheaded by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft Corp.'s Entertainment and Devices Division, who spoke with us briefly about the goals of the new initiative.

Bach was blunt that this campaign isn't entirely unrelated to the business of selling video game consoles. Yes, there is the altruistic goal of edifying parents who feel confused or disenfranchised by an increasingly complex video game industry; but, if Microsoft can convince parents that Xbox 360 -- versus, let's say, Nintendo or PlayStation -- ensures a gaming environment that parents are in control of, they'll have earned a significant strategic victory.

With certain Miami lawyers making headlines ... again ... and politicians considering new ratings legislation, Microsoft's campaign to educate the public on the existing ESRB ratings certainly appears to be a preemptive strike. But how successful can one industry player, not to mention a minority player in the console space, make on their own? Bach pointed out there is broad industry cooperation under the auspices of other organizations, like the ESA and ESRB, where Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft coordinate their efforts. But this tour is more about PR; Microsoft is looking to sell themselves as a responsible industry player.

When asked whether the motivations for the tour were in direct response to the increased legal threats facing the gaming industry, Bach reminded us that every legal challenge mounted thus far has been ruled unconstitutional. He did say he would be "naive" to not appreciate the political motivations of some politicians vilifying video games, but hoped instead that this tour may convince politicians that education, and not legislation, would be the most successful route to enabling parents.

Will Microsoft's bus tour make a dent in the political battle to regulate video games? We're guessing not. The scope of the problem is going to take far more than a 20-city bus tour slash media campaign, but the accompanying "presentations by Microsoft's Bach to government officials and leaders in advocacy and business" may help considerably more.

The bus tour kicks off today in New York City at the Digital Life conference, and continues from there.

First four bus tour dates:
Hartford, Conn. - Oct. 24
Boston, MA - Oct. 26
Atlanta - November 2
Miami - November 9
The remaining city dates are still TBD:
Las Vegas, NV
Los Angeles, CA
Phoenix, AZ
Austin, TX
Washington, DC
Philadelphia, PA
Indianapolis, IN
Chicago, IL
Minneapolis, MN
Denver, CO
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco/Bay Area, CA
Seattle, WA

[Update: The bus tour will hit 20 cities over the next 8 months, not 20 days.]
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