Former Microsoft designer leaks likely future of Windows and Xbox “avatars”

Microsoft’s plan to launch a new “avatar” system for Windows 10 and Xbox users received its most revealing leak yet this week, thanks to an eagle-eyed forum user combing through an ex-Microsoft contractor’s resume.

After receiving a splashy reveal at E3 2017, Microsoft’s “Xbox Avatars”—a series of cartoony characters that players can customize and possibly bring into future games—were quietly delayed beyond their original “fall 2017” launch window.

 The company has remained mum on them ever since, beyond formally announcing a vague “2018” window. But ResetERA forum user Gowans turned up Xbox Avatar’s upcoming Windows 10 app by way of one of its “design integration developers,” Mark Dunbar, posting footage of the app on his portfolio site.

While the app has always been described as an Xbox-affiliated avatar system, much like the avatars that popped up in the second half of the Xbox 360’s lifespan, this interface appears to be completely integrated within Windows 10. That’s not just because it supports using a mouse to click around. In particular, its right-side sidebar system looks a lot more like the upcoming Fluent Design System aesthetic than like anything on the current Xbox One dashboard.

Last year’s reveal teaser showed off the new avatar system’s general aesthetic and colorful customization choices. This leak includes many of those styles and features, along with a better look at exactly what kind of customization options may be coming whenever the app launches. These include an unclear “alter ego” option, which might let gamers quickly transform their avatar in the middle of a gaming session, and a clear, on-every-menu delineation between “basic” customization options and “purchased” ones.

Comparatively, the Xbox 360’s avatars could be customized with outfits and perks that could either be earned via a game’s “achievements” or purchased with real-world money; this series of menus doesn’t appear to include any tabs or listings for achievement-related avatar items.

Dunbar’s video was removed from YouTube while this article was being written. The video did not include screens or descriptions of how the new Xbox Avatar store will function, but it did include a granular look at how much users will be able to customize their characters—and a tease of how players will be able to pose their creations and turn them into Xbox “gamerpic” images.

The unlisted video was uploaded in February of this year. Coincidentally, Dunbar’s LinkedIn page claims that his employment with Microsoft ended that same month. We’re still waiting for a lot more information about this system, particularly how it will interface with existing and unreleased video games and whether the greater Windows 10 ecosystem will tap into it.

We have reached out to Dunbar and to Microsoft representatives with questions about this video’s accuracy and will update this report with any response.

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