Mark Mazzei

  • System: Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Genre: Dashboard
  • [extra data]

It’s been well-known that of all the consoles, the Xbox 360 is one that goes for the hardcore crowd, while the Wii goes for the more casual crowd. With Achievements for games, a good online service, and a (healthy?) dose of hardcore games, the Xbox 360 delivers where Nintendo mostly isn’t. Or so we thought. Earlier this year, there were two rumors that were... quite interesting, to say the least. Both of them focused on the more casual crowd that the Wii is doing a great job in capturing. The first rumor was about the motion controller codenamed “Darwin,” which, much like the Wii remote, allows a similar degree of accuracy. The second rumor was about an avatar system that was being developed by Rare, which was interesting back then since they’ve never made a non-game before. Both these rumors caused quite the stir, as the fanbase wasn’t ready to have Miis and Rare games with motion controls on their 360s.

Obviously, one of them came true, while the other didn’t. The Darwin controller turned out to be developed by Motus Games, which isn’t directly affiliated with Microsoft. That leaves us with the Avatars. During Microsoft’s Press Conference in E3 2008, one of the very first things presented was the rumor becoming reality: the Avatars would be coming to the 360 in the Fall with a brand new Dashboard look and update. Almost immediately following the video announcement, it was revealed who was responsible for this: who else but Rare, with their logo brilliantly fading on their location in Twycross?

Avatars promo pic

So when and where did the Avatars come from? According to past articles, the Avatar concept came from a project that already had them up and running. The component was being able to clothe and customize the character, obviously. In what no doubt led a debate between rabid fans of either Microsoft or Nintendo, Rare claimed to have created the Avatars before the Miis were “part of the gaming scene” in 2006. Back then, the concept was to have the Avatar in replayable games so you can experience said examples of games with different characters. Later, Don Mattrick from Microsoft claimed to have created the concept of Avatars in 4D Sports Boxing, a game that most of us have never even heard of. Anyway, the comparisons are undoubtedly there, but unlike the Miis, the new Dashboard and the Avatars go hand in hand; when you look up your friends on the Dashboard, you can see the Avatars either active due to your friends playing games, or sleeping because your friend’s offline. They’re definitely more integrated within the Dashboard compared to the Mii Channel and Check Mii Out.

Speaking of outside Wii Channels like Check Mii Out, Microsoft is planning the same aspect, allowing your Avatar to participate in a little league of its own. Xbox Live Primetime wants to focus on just that, allowing you to compete in games for prizes like 1 vs. 100 and Deal or No Deal, in an effort to catch that casual base that Microsoft isn’t really known for. There are also plans to have an Avatar Store for next Spring, which’ll prove whether or not gamers will really go for adding... whatever it is the store is planning to sell. All this family-friendliness (sadly, for the more sadistic of our readers) means that you won’t be able to shoot other Avatars in the face in an online game. But you know what they say: “Live in hope.”

Available right now, Rare’s first non-game ever should prove to be an interesting experiment on seeing how the casual receive the Xbox 360. Until then, you can check out our final opinions on the New Xbox Experience and the Avatars here!

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