As part of Microsoft's E3 press conference highlighting the sparkling new interface for Xbox Live itself, the company confirms the customizable, user-created avatars for Xbox Live previously leaked in a preview report from marketing research firm Intellisponse. Online avatars users which can kit out with virtual gear are all the rage these days, and they've already made an impression on console gaming thanks to the Nintendo Miis. They were just the start, as Sony is planning avatars for the upcoming PlayStation Home network as well.
Microsoft's own avatar system will be designed by Rare, and are intended to personalize user gamercards. These avatars will also be integrated into the games themselves, much like Nintendo's Miis. Avatar customizations will update the gamercard profiles in turn.
Unlike PlayStation Home, Microsoft has no intention of establishing a virtual world for its avatars to populate as a literal representation of its social network. The gamercard avatars will instead be focused on XBL multiplayer endeavors. According to Microsoft's Corporate VP Shane Kim:
"We have no plans to create our own 'Home' type of functionality. Our focus in the online space – and we talked a lot about this when Sony announced plans for Home – has always been about building on the foundation we created when we started Xbox Live. We're continuing to add services and features and functionality that we believe our customers care more about."