Microsoft is set to ban the purchase of all gun-related Avatar accessories as part of a new Xbox Live policy effective January 1, 2012. Users that have purchased the "offending" items before Jan. 1 will be allowed to keep and use them, according to an official post on the Epic Games forums.

In the post, community manager raczilla noted that the Lancer and Hammerburst Avatar accessories related to the Gears of War series will no longer be available for purchase on the Xbox Live Marketplace come the New Year. We are still awaiting a reply from Microsoft regarding the matter.

Microsoft debuted Avatars in November 2008 as a way to visually represent a gamer using a cartoon-like character. Users are able to fully customize their Avatar by adjusting attributes like height, weight, skin color and hair style. Players can earn new Avatar accessories by completing in-game achievements or purchase them with real-world money through the Avatar Marketplace which was launched in August 2009.

One could argue that first person shooters and games that include guns like Call of Duty, Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War were key to Microsoft's console success, thus it seems a bit unusual that Redmond is suddenly turning all family-friendly. But as TG Daily points out, the deciding factor here is likely the fact that Avatars are universal, meaning that your Avatar shows up regardless of what game you are playing. Halo gamers might expect to see a gun-toting Avatar but someone playing Kinect Sports might not.