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A Reaction to Microsoft's Avatars

by Nick DiMola - July 14, 2008, 7:50 pm EDT
Total comments: 23

While watching Microsoft's E3 presentation I couldn't help but think of Sony's E3 2006 presentation. They unveiled the Sixaxis controller that year shortly after Nintendo had showcased the Wii Remote, which had totally stunned the gaming community. Everyone saw the Sixaxis as a knock-off and a knee-jerk reaction to what Nintendo had just revealed.

Microsoft's announcement of the avatar system reminded me of this because it so clearly was an attempt to match Nintendo's Miis. The sad part is, Microsoft's reaction was not knee-jerk, but feels just as thoughtless and poorly planned as if it was.

The avatars lack the simple charm which makes the Miis so attractive as well as the killer app to truly showcase their utility. Various trivia games do not make these avatars any more appealing and neither does the prospect of purchasing these shallow games in order to take use of this "great" new avatar system.

Wii Sports so clearly demonstrated the potential of Miis and the Wii Remote that they could not be argued with. The game was simple and it was free (technically), and it allowed you to play as yourself, mere minutes after unpacking your system. Without an application like this, I don’t see how Microsoft expects people to truly attach themselves to their avatars.

The avatar announcement along with the interface redesign was an obvious attempt at taking some of that Blue Ocean market share away from Nintendo. Microsoft missed the boat though. That crowd is not interested in spending 30 minutes making an avatar look just like them, and they are not interested in playing meaningless trivia games with said avatar either. This crowd wants a meaningful experience that looks fun and easy; they can't be bothered with complexities that get in the way of unadulterated fun.

I think avatars will prove more devastating than beneficial for Microsoft because they are alienating their current consumer, all while not truly appealing to their intended new market. Their core consumer doesn't want an interface redesign and they sure as hell don't want avatars. Just today on G4, hosts of their E3 show were already expressing their dislike of the avatar system and expressed how "childish" they thought it was. These opinions are straight from the horse's mouth. If you aren’t attracting the non-gamer market with avatars and you aren't appealing to the core gamers, who are you appealing to?

Microsoft would've been better suited releasing a second console that more closely followed the Wii's example in an attempt to pull in the Blue Ocean crowd. All they have done now is pissed off their core consumer and demonstrated to the non-gamer that after two years they still can't figure out how to rip Nintendo off properly.

I don't think this will destroy Microsoft, I just think that avatars will never see a useful application and will never truly compete with Nintendo's Miis. Given all of the announcements at the press conference, there are enough games with at least timed exclusives coming to the system that they will be just fine in the battle with the PS3. But don't expect them to navigate the waves of the Blue Ocean until next generation when they can really build a suitable vessel for the trip.

Talkback

Awfully hard on Trivia games there Mr. Jack... They have their purpose too!

But you're fight, for as much as I thought that the avatars didn't look too bad, They don't have a killer app... especially if there's no HD. To really attract the blue ocean crowd, you'll need a mass market price point, and as cool as avatars are they don't justify a $349 price point, I think.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusJuly 14, 2008

Quote from: Kairon

Awfully hard on Trivia games there Mr. Jack... They have their purpose too!

Well, its not so much that trivia games are bad, they just aren't something that people are going to say, "Hey, have you seen that Xbox? I really need to pick that up!" Non-gamers get that on their Wii already, so why bother with the Xbox renditions?

D_AverageJuly 14, 2008

"And now for the first time, a user can create an avatar of himself"

Corporate stupidity at it's fine finest.

ShyGuyJuly 15, 2008

This will as big a hit as the Zune.

RABicleJuly 15, 2008

Quote from: Mr.

Quote from: Kairon

Awfully hard on Trivia games there Mr. Jack... They have their purpose too!

Well, its not so much that trivia games are bad, they just aren't something that people are going to say, "Hey, have you seen that Xbox? I really need to pick that up!" Non-gamers get that on their Wii already, so why bother with the Xbox renditions?

But.. why not?  If the Avatars can keep a gamers daughter amused for 30 minutes on a rainy day then they've served their purpose. You people are acting like these avatars are a bad move but they're not. They dont change anything fundamentally, they just let people put a little face on their Xbox Gamercard, which most people would agree is cooler than some Splinter Cell artwork or whatever. They haven't been made to sell systems, just like the Miis weren't made to sell systems. They both just allow a little bit of user personalisation that make that consumer enjoy their product just a little bit more.

Yes they're a Mii rip off but this isn't like how Windows was a giant rip off Macintosh in 1985, this is how well Microsoft Word probably borrowed the Word Count tool off Lotus or some other Word Processor that had it first.

ShyGuyJuly 15, 2008

Word was more of a Word Perfect rip off.

MaverickJuly 15, 2008

You can keep your original GamerTag pics right?  No way in hell I'm trading mine in for a Mii-Too.

Shift KeyJuly 15, 2008

Quote from: RABicle

Microsoft Word probably borrowed the Word Count tool off Lotus or some other Word Processor that had it first.

Counting words? What an original concept! Let's innovate imitate the idea!

I'd hate to have bought a lot of gamerpics...
Seems like thats being thrown away. Same with the themes...

blackfootstepsJuly 17, 2008

Quote from: nron10

I'd hate to have bought a lot of gamerpics...
Seems like thats being thrown away. Same with the themes...

I'd hate to think that anyone had actually spent money on gamerpics and/or themes. I, for one, would like to replace my current gamerpic of a soccer ball with an avatar of pure beauty.

wulffman04July 21, 2008

In my opinion this is a brilliant move by Microsoft. It may look very... retarded to the hardcore gamers and fanboys from all of the consoles cliches (if you will.) I don't think any Microsoft Fanboys will be jumping up and down over this announcement. But to a "soccer mom", if Microsoft markets this right... she will see how similar Microsoft and Nintendo are (on the box or the commercial she sees on tv) and will not dwell so much on the differences (speaking of course about the "casual" games, that are more prevalent with Nintendo.)

So what about those more mature gamers that are looking to buy an xbox. They aren't going to be pushed away by a "mii-esc" avatar, that is purely OPTIONAL! This was made clear by microsoft in their press conference. They are NOT going to take the place of any gamer tag pics. And the games that DO support them, will NOT REQUIRE them.

You can ALMOST say the same thing about wii sports. "well you didn't HAVE to make a mii to play the game", there were of course randomly made mii's. But everyone felt the appeal to make their own mii, because of the ability to then see it playing a game and running around the screen. These avatars that Microsoft are going to be making, are not going to be anything significant to the hardcore/mature player. Those casual gamers will see these avatars as something fun to create and interact with, and will enjoy it. The rest of us, will choose to ignore it, because there is no appeal to us. As I think it should be. "Don't be getting your 'casual' into my hardcore/mature game!"

ArbokJuly 21, 2008

Quote from: wulffman04

But to a "soccer mom", if Microsoft markets this right... she will see how similar Microsoft and Nintendo are (on the box or the commercial she sees on tv) and will not dwell so much on the differences (speaking of course about the "casual" games, that are more prevalent with Nintendo.)

You mean like ignoring the fact that there is a price gap between the two and that one comes with a game while the other does not (let's not even touch motion controls)? Somehow I believe those will be the more important thing to a "soccer mom" then if there is an avatar system in place or not.

wulffman04July 22, 2008

Quote from: Arbok

Quote from: wulffman04

But to a "soccer mom", if Microsoft markets this right... she will see how similar Microsoft and Nintendo are (on the box or the commercial she sees on tv) and will not dwell so much on the differences (speaking of course about the "casual" games, that are more prevalent with Nintendo.)

You mean like ignoring the fact that there is a price gap between the two and that one comes with a game while the other does not (let's not even touch motion controls)? Somehow I believe those will be the more important thing to a "soccer mom" then if there is an avatar system in place or not.

Yes and No... it depends on if the child is begging for a 360 or a Wii... if the kid is wanting a Wii I'm pretty sure the mom, will without question pick up that box and buy it. If the kid is wanting a 360, with this new set of friendly and family oriented "options", the mom might be more accepting of the 360.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterJuly 26, 2008

What I found so hilarious about the MS conference is that some fans (including those within the Nintendo community...you know who you are) view the 360 and PS3 as the light shining through the fog of Nintendo and casual gaming dominance. Consoles where the TRU HARDCOREZ ruled supreme with plenty of shooting games to play and curse through.

So when MS started borrowing from Nintendo's playbook, they basically admitted that Nintendo's ideas had some merit, perfectly bitch slapping those that saw MS with high respects.

They are still mainly the providers of shooting games for the hardcore, but the fact remains; they believe that there's some gold to be found in the casual market.

KDR_11kJuly 31, 2008

I don't think it's much of a brilliant move. The new gamers aren't coming to Nintendo because the Miis are cool, they're coming to Nintendo because there's games they really want. The Miis are just an extra bit, allowing easy access to someone's player profile and preventing the avatar in the game from presupposing anything about the player (e.g. no young boy, adult woman or whatever). Of course there's also the cool factor of "hey look, it's me!" but that's only secondary IMO. I don't see much point in MS copying this.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJuly 31, 2008

Birdmen, tis all.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusSeptember 11, 2008

While that may be 100% true, Miis originated from a concept first presented by Miyamoto for the N64DD (Stage Debut). I can almost guarantee this predates any idea Rare may have had, and I can also almost guarantee that Microsoft gave Rare the greenlight on their project when they saw how immensely popular Miis were.

BeautifulShySeptember 11, 2008

I thought the idea went as far back as the Famicom.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusSeptember 11, 2008

Quote from: Maxi

I thought the idea went as far back as the Famicom.

Ah, after checking the wiki I see you are right. So I think that proves the point even further. Any way you look at it, it is really a "Mii" too effort.

vuduSeptember 12, 2008

I'm disappointed there aren't any jokes about Rare's long development times.

UltimatePartyBearSeptember 12, 2008

Quote from: vudu

I'm disappointed there aren't any jokes about Rare long development times.

They'll be posted when they're done.

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusSeptember 18, 2008

It's true, I hate the Miis and I don't want them on my favorite console

Unless there are some awesome, substantial improvements, or downloadable accessories, or something like that. Like, imagine buying a game and being able to dress up your avatar with gear from that game? That would be cool as hell. They're not gonna have that feature, are they?

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