That avatar you like is coming back in style soon. This fall, in fact, as Microsoft is looking to bring back its Xbox Live avatars with a whole new look and variety of new options. These avatars took a back seat with the release of the Xbox One and its Kinect-focused interface, but we’ll soon be seeing them again. This time, though, Microsoft is going for a far more inclusive feel that should let you make yourself into an avatar regardless of what you look like or wish you looked like.
It’s like a fun-house mirror
Avatars offer things like vehicles – including wheelchairs – as well as prosthetic limbs, and they don’t force cosmetic items onto any one gender. The avatars of the previous generation worked for many of us, but quite a few gamers were left in the cold when they felt like they couldn’t make themselves appear in this digital mirror.
Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have been trying to get us to connect personally with their consoles and online infrastructures for years so that the idea of switching platforms will become distasteful. The more of an identity we establish on a platform, the harder it is to move away from it. Achievements, gamertags, and even gamer portraits are all ways to do this. Each company tried an avatar-based system as well, to varying effect. Sony’s Home application was perhaps the most interactive but least popular of the various options, and Home has since been decommissioned. Nintendo’s Miis are the most iconic, and people were getting pretty creative with them. The company tried to revive them with the Miitomo social networking app, but they seem to have fallen away.
Microsoft’s avatars were, for the most part, a way to see yourself and your friends on your dashboard. They popped up in a couple games, but never saw a huge amount of use. Their prominence in the Xbox 360 dashboard, however, ensured that they were always front and center. Games often offered avatar items as achievement rewards, and licensed items from properties like Star Wars and Voltron were popular, at least on my dashboard. I’m looking forward to seeing avatars come back, though I’m not sure how they’ll fit into Microsoft’s optimized Xbox One interface.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Xbox One interface this fall when the Xbox One X launches, with these avatars taking a higher profile role.