Microsoft's new online rules give cheaters and trolls 7 second chances before banning them for a year

Xbox logo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

It's like the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on me, fool me a subsequent six times, also shame on me, but if you fool me an eighth and final time then, frankly, you're bang out of order and it's really time we did something about it. This, I assume, was the guiding mantra behind the Xbox enforcement strike system, a just-announced policy from Microsoft that aims to make the company's punishment mechanism a little clearer for players on the receiving end of it.

The new system is already in place, and Microsoft likens the way it works to "demerit strikes used in driver's license systems in many countries." In essence, it's an 'eight strikes and you're out' system, with each new strike tier netting you a longer suspension until your eighth offence sees Microsoft boot you out of services like "messaging, parties and party chat, multiplayer and others" for a full year. There's even a handy enforcement history tracker so you can see how many strikes you've chalked up at any time.

But some offences are greater than others, so particular instances of bad behaviour will net you multiple strikes at once. Profanity and cheating, for instance, will only cost you one strike (and a consequent one-day suspension), while hate speech will instantly hit you with three strikes and a three-day suspension, which honestly seems a little low given the nature of the offence. 

Your strikes all hang around for six months before expiring and can, naturally, be appealed, so you won't have to endure a strike on your record for the rest of your life just because you dropped an F-bomb in a round of Halo: Infinite one time.

Microsoft has even ginned up a little "Enforcement stacking user journey" image—which is quite a funny way to describe a process by which you punish someone for being repeatedly toxic—to show how the system works over time, which you can see below.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

 It might be called the Xbox enforcement system, but it applies to PC players too. Your strikes all count against your Microsoft account—the one you probably use to sign into your Windows PC—and impact your ability to use features tied to games that make use of Microsoft and Xbox services. 

On the bright side, Microsoft says "even suspended accounts remain functional for single-player experiences and players do not lose access to purchased content," so all your no-doubt numerous purchases on the Microsoft Store are safe, but the corporation reminds you that "for the most serious violations – including illegal activity – Xbox retains the ability to permanently suspend all functionality of an account including access to purchases". So, you know, don't do anything literally illegal with your gaming devices, if you need to be told that.

But hey, you're probably gonna be okay. In its post announcing the new system, Microsoft said that "fewer than 1% of all players received a temporary suspension, and only 1/3 of those received a second" in 2022, and that its own data suggests most people are scared straight after a single "enforcement". Plus, the new system isn't changing how Xbox moderates itself, so the only players under threat with this new system are the same ones who were at risk under the old one. So long as you're not unbearable online, it doesn't sound like you have anything to worry about.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.