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Nintendo Wii U watershed restricts adult game purchases until after 11PM

Nintendo Wii U owners living in Europe have discovered their new console restricts access to PEGI 18-rated games with a 'watershed' system that locks out purchases, except during a small timed window in the middle of the night.

Like the original Wii and Nintendo's 3DS hand-held, the Wii U has an on-line store that lets customers purchase full games and extra downloadable content for their existing games. To do so, users must register a credit card with the service - traditionally the only thing that approaches an age verification check for such digital distribution systems.

The Wii U, however, goes a step further and copies the 'watershed' system used by broadcast TV in the UK: just as adult content cannot be broadcast before 9PM, Wii U owners can't purchase 'adult' games before 11PM. Those who want to pick up such content will need to wait until late at night local time, and make their purchasing decision before 3AM the following morning - at which point the block resumes.

The system isn't a block on playing such games: once purchased, content rated as 18+ by the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) programme - which comprises at present the zombie-themed first-party title ZombiU, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Mass Effect 3 and Assassin's Creed III - the titles can be played at any time of day.

The block was first spotted by a user on the NeoGAF forum, who shared an official email confirming the system from Nintendo's customer support division. "Nintendo has always aimed to offer gameplay experiences suited to all age groups, observing carefully all the relevant regulations regarding content access that are present in the various European countries," the statement reads. "We have thus decided to restrict the access to content which is unsuitable to minors (PEGI) to the 11PM - 3PM time window."

Thus far, no other console makers have come forward to suggest they will be following in Nintendo's footsteps.

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