Talking Point: Should the PS4 Feature an Avatar System?
Posted by Sammy Barker
Rarely a week goes by where there isn’t a new LittleBigPlanet costume to buy. Whether it’s the re-release of seasonal outfits or some brand new threads to tie into a big movie or game launch, Sackboy’s the undisputed king when it comes to cosplay. But for as popular (and presumably profitable) as these downloadable garments are, you can only really flaunt your virtual fashion sense in a handful of titles, drastically detracting from the clothing's appeal unless you’re a self-prescribed ‘Play, Create, Share’ addict. As such, isn’t it about time that Sony made these items a little more attractive, and incorporated them into a more meaningful avatar initiative on the PlayStation 4?
Before you mention it, PlayStation Home protagonists never really took off. Aside from being utterly devoid of any sort of personality – something that developers eventually eschewed by creating full-body overlays – the avatars were also limited by the fact that they existed solely within Sony’s virtual world. Unlike Nintendo’s infinitely more popular Miis, for example, it was impossible for studios to pull the characters out and incorporate them into proper PlayStation 3 games – not that there seemed to be much pent-up demand to do so.
However, the microtransaction model in the online social network proved incredibly popular. While it’s tough to happen upon hard numbers, PlayStation Home has frequently been praised by content producers for being an incredibly profitable platform. A large proportion of that cash comes from virtual clothing items, such as branded shirts, accessories, and the aforementioned full-body overlays. But by limiting these items to the few people engaging in the virtual world, the company’s leaving a lot of money on the table.
Sackboy would be a great conduit – but his cutesy persona may deter the market that Sony’s coveting
And this is where Microsoft’s found massive success. Its drearily dubbed Avatar system may have caught a lot slack from hardcore gamers, but there’s an undeniable appeal to reflecting your console-wide persona with goodies that you’ve accrued during your gaming career. Recent releases on the Xbox Live marketplace include Grand Theft Auto V garments and accessories, spanning scuba-diving gear and Franklin’s dog. With no direct analogue on the PlayStation Network, though, we got a selection of 32x32px icons.
Not everyone sees the need to invest in these superfluous characters, of course, and that’s fine – but it doesn’t have to be all about microtransactions. Exclusive items and clothing can be offered as pre-order incentives, beta rewards, and more. If implemented correctly, there’s also the opportunity for publishers to attach very specific rewards to gameplay feats. Earning a Platinum Trophy is nice and all, but what if you could scoop a limited edition set of armour for playing through Dark Souls without dying? You’d be the talk of the PlayStation nation – especially if you’re able to equip the sought-after item and flaunt it in thematically appropriate games.
And that brings us to the biggest challenge: the look of the characters themselves. We’ve already insinuated that Sackboy would be a great conduit for the proposed initiative, and he’d fit comfortably into dozens of different types of titles – but his cutesy persona may deter the more adult market that Sony’s coveting with the PS4. The next generation console’s interface is very slick and social network-esque, and it’s hard to envisage where a burlap doll would fit in. In saying that, though, PlayStation Home has proven that more grown-up designs have a tendency to fall flat, too.
Creating likeable, identifiable, and customisable characters would be tough, then, but it seems like an endeavour that’s worth the effort. Not only would the system offer a lucrative revenue stream for the platform holder and third-party publishers, but it would also provide gamers with some attractive personalisation options. Considering that Sony’s already investing significant effort into this type of content in isolated experiences such as LittleBigPlanet and PlayStation Home, it would make sense to centralise the whole initiative on the PS4. And, c’mon, you know you want to kit out your profile’s protagonist with My Little Pony paraphernalia...
Would you like to see a system-wide avatar system incorporated into the PS4? Do you think that Sackboy would be a good fit for this, or should the platform holder create a new character? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Do you think that there should be an avatar system on the PS4? (55 votes)
Yes, it sounds like a fun way of showing off my personality
I'm not really fussed to be honest
No, I don’t want to deal with ridiculous profile protagonists
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