Microsoft’s new batch of Xbox Live avatars are in testing and will be available for players starting in April, according to The Verge.
The new player avatars were first announced last summer and stand ready to replace the one Microsoft first introduced with the Xbox 360 in 2008. The player-created characters are notable because Microsoft is adding a host of new customization options and elements to make them more diverse, including prosthetic limbs, new body type options, and objects such as wheelchairs.
The Verge cites unnamed sources familiar with the company who say that Microsoft employees are using the new avatars on their Xboxes, and the Xbox Alpha testers group will have access to them before they become available to all players. Microsoft also plans to preview the avatars to players in its Xbox Insider Program for feedback ahead of the wider launch in April. Microsoft detailed the new Xbox Live avatars at E3 2017 and previously planned to bring the avatars online for Windows 10 users by the end of the year.
The announcement video for the new Xbox avatars shows off a wealth of customization options, riffing both on the things that are already available in the Xbox Live store and adding new capabilities. New costumes, clothes, and hairstyles are in the video, as well as props that include the wheelchair, and other additions such as a motorbike and a skateboard. The avatars maintain their cartoon aesthetic, but they have been updated from the 2008 look, adding a great deal of more detail.
Microsoft detailed that the new avatars are built in the Unity engine. The company said that moving the avatars to Unity means it’s possible to quickly and easily create new customization options to be added to Xbox Live in the future. Microsoft also stressed that going forward, those additions will be gender-neutral and that no customization options will be restricted in any way.
The new avatar system is getting integrated into Xbox Live dashboard and will appear on players’ home screens when they turn on the machine. The Verge also reports that, as with the Xbox 360 avatars, Microsoft plans to make more avatar customization options available for purchase from an Xbox Live avatar store. Expect it to go online in May.
At first, only Microsoft will create customization options to sell in the avatar store, but the company plans to open it up to third-party developers to add and sell their own options at some point in the future as well.
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