Stir: Avatar Swag


Creating an avatar likeness to represent us to our online friends has become a staple in console gaming.  Beginning with the Wii in 2006, then added into the “New Xbox Experience” or NXE dashboard update in 2008, and included in the PS3 “Home” which entered it’s state of perpetual beta in 2008.  Both Microsoft and Sony have constructed their personalization to be monetized while  Nintendo seemingly missed the boat by being the first to bring avatars to the party.  While nobody is releasing detailed numbers regarding revenue specifically linked to avatar swag, there are some general finacial numbers available.

Microsoft’s 2010 Annual Report shows us the following about the Entertainment and Devices Division (EDD).

“EDD revenue was nearly flat reflecting increased revenue from the non-gaming portion of the business, partially offset by decreased revenue from Xbox 360 platform and PC games. Non-gaming revenue increased $35 million or 1% primarily reflecting increased sales of Windows Embedded device platforms, offset in part by decreased Zune and Windows Phone revenue. Xbox 360 platform and PC game revenue decreased $12 million, primarily reflecting a reduction in Xbox 360 consoles sold and revenue per console, offset in part by increased Xbox LIVE revenue. We shipped 10.3 million Xbox 360 consoles during the fiscal year 2010, compared with 11.2 million Xbox 360 consoles during fiscal year 2009.”

Comparing 2010 to 2009, revenue “was nearly flat”.  There was a decrease in the number of Xbox 360 sales as well as lower prices.  Non-gaming revenue in the Entertainment Division increased by $35 million yet profits skyrocketed from $108 million in 2009 to $679 million in 2010 with much of the difference attributed to “increased Xbox LIVE revenue”.  Analysts have speculated that revenue from Xbox LIVE was about $1 billion for fiscal 2010 at an operating cost of about 65%.  I know that’s a lot of info – but it boils down to this.  From July 2009 through Jun 2010 Xbox LIVE has been hugely profitable.  Part of this profitability is surely due to offering “virtual” items for real money.

Many have, and will continue to argue that Microsoft is greedy, money-mongers that are out to take all of your money.  We forget that profit is the goal of all corporations.  And if we were not willing to pay for these services and items, they would cease to exist.  So long as Microsoft can generate a billion in revenue at unheard of profit margins, Xbox LIVE will continue to thrive rather than joining many others in the unkempt gaming services graveyard.

So, if spending a few bucks here and there on stuff like a Buzz Lightyear Bodysuit or a DeathSpank Ball Cap helps me identify myself, and helps to keep online gaming services alive – then so be it.  In fact I hope they make even more in 2011 – which they surely will – since higher annual subscription fees were just recently announced.  As for Sony and their “Home” features, they are on the right path also.  Without financial support from subscribers (fees) and consumers (online purchases), the service will fail to thrive.

So be glad that there are gaming services like Xbox LIVE and PSN, and don’t be so quick to scoff at the profits associated with these services.  If they don’t justify their existence financially, they will eventually fade away.

How well do you know the Platform Nation?  The inset avatars are of some of our staff.  Hover or click on each to find out who they are.


Sarah Brannan | FFXPrincess | ProfileTwitter |

I have the PS3, and I’ve never purchased anything for my PSN character. There are tons of cute outfits, things for your “house”, but it’s nothing I’m spending money on.

Maybe the ability to win/accumulate free stuff would be a good idea. Like if you get to 10 trophies you can get one clothing item free, etc… That way you’re still getting trophies like normal but have the ability to use the items if you want them. Then you don’t have people that don’t want swag stuffed full of it and unhappy.

Scott diMonda | WCC5723 | ProfileTwitter |

I have and will not buy anything for my avatar.  As far as I am concerned if they ever did away with free clothing my avatar would be standing there in his tidy whiteys.  Now if I were to unlock rewards while playing a game I welcome it with open arms.  But I would never purchase any clothing or accessory unless my avatar could sport a P*N shirt and maybe a P*N coffee cup than my avatar would be complete and I would pay for that.

Connor Jackson | BlueboyJacko | Twitter |

Microsoft, bunch of money grabbers, that’s what they are. I know, let’s make a game, and bring out about 17,000 map packs for it. Then, we’ll bring out thousands of different bits of clothing for their avatars, most of which are garish, hideous and completely overpriced. Fair enough, you can make your avatar, but come on, who wants to pay like, £1  for a t-shirt. Microsoft may well have made the Xbox, and bring us great games, but they’re still money grabbers. Stupid Microsoft…

William Johnson | StylelessKnave | ProfileTwitter |

When I first got myself plugged into X-Box Live, I found the Avatar items fun to play with. Dressing up my digital me, and then finding the Avatar items, with game specific shirts, and props like the Halo Warthogs, and Star Wars Light Sabers, and costumes are all nice, but for me personally the novelty of them all has worn off. I don’t really bother to check out the new items that go on sale, because though I have bought a few shirts both for 80 Microsoft Points, I’m no longer willing to dress up my Avatar for the costs they ask for. I think that if the items are not free, then make them a subtle, unlockable along with Achievements. Games like Left 4 Dead 2, and Toy Soldiers have items you can unlock like the Gas Mask in T.S. and the Depeche Mode shirt, and even the Health Pack in L4D2. Hopefully more developers will go this route and implement more in their upcoming games. Because the only good swag, is free swag.

Stewart Loosemore | Stigweird85 |  ProfileTwitter |

I look at Avatar gear as way of supporting your favorite brands. I have bought a few Bioware T-shirts, some Toy Story merchandise and I plan to buy some Muppet stuff as well. I wouldn’t purchase the designer gear for my Avatar as I don’t buy it in real life and I have no intention of spending real money on brands I don’t like or wear. As for Home, I have never actually opened Home and consequently never bought anything for it. It sounded like a good idea at the time but it just takes up too much space on your HDD and you can spend your money and no-one else may every see it. At least with Avatars anyone else can see what you have spent your hard earned money on.

Ross Wigg | LostPoetB24 | ProfileTwitter |

My opinion on Avatar swag is unless it is a very exclusive limited edition thing the need to pay for it is kind of stupid. We as gamers are already paying for the game that can start at 30 dollars or be as high as 60 dollars. Then on top of that most games are coming out with some form of DLC that will cost you anywhere between 5 and 15 dollars. Then you have the possible map packs that can cost extra money that you will more than likely pour into your favorite games. When all is said and done you have spent more than 80 dollars for just one game. Making the swag some type of in game unlock able would be a great feature on 360 you have achievements and on PS3 trophies. Game companies should learn a way to tie the two together and give me a reason to want to win that swag. Also in the same note I don’t want to pay 10 dollars (Maybe a little extreme) for a shirt for my character when I pay 5 for my own shirt. Same with furniture there is no reason any price for a piece of digital content should be more than 2 dollars at most. Give me options of bundles or packages at 6 dollars I may be more inclined to spend the money especially if there is some exclusives involved. Going forward anybody in the gaming industry would be smart to have some kind of swag for the PS3 home or Xbox Avatars essentially it is nothing more than free advertising.

Mark Withers | PN Markwithers | ProfileTwitter |

I don’t agree with being able to buy swag for your avatar – are we all suddenly small kids who like to play dress-up with dolls? Avatar gear should only be available in the form of rewards for achievements earned or in-game achievement. It should be a visible indication of something ‘unique’ you earned by completing a game etc.

I hate scanning through my XBL friend list to see carbon copies of Avatar gear in the days before release of a game. It actually sickens me to think of the real world money simply wasted on this market.

I want to see Avatar gear given away in competitions too, limited edition stuff that you cannot buy.

I am almost certain that when we were first introduced to the Avatar, we were told that we would be able to import images taken from the Live! Camera to make our own clothes but someone must have realized there is no money in that concept so it died.


Chris Forbis | MensaDad| ProfileTwitter |

For me avatar swag is the “virtual” equivalent of concert t-shirts.  I don’t go out of my way to shop for swag, but if I see something that catches my eye, or I am really impressed with a game, I might pick up a shirt or hat to let others know what I think is worth promoting.   I don’t have a problem with game companies or brands promoting themselves and supplementing their income with avatar items.  For example, my XBL avatar is currently sporting a Gearbox (makers of Borderlands) hat and a Metro 2033 t-shirt.

I really like getting avatar awards in games.  When I first got the red t-shirt in Red Dead Redemption – and put it on my avatar – I had several people ask me where and how I got it, since it was not available in the avatar store.  On XBL, other gamers get to know me (visually at least) as my avatar , so spending a couple bucks to have it represent my interests doesn’t seem out of line at all.


I pick a topic and ask the Platform Nation writers, editors and staff to send me their opinions.  Thanks go out to all the Platform Nation writers who contributed to Stir this week.  They are all part of the best writing team in the industry and I couldn’t do this without them.  Be sure to show them some love by checking out their other work (by clicking over to their profile) or following them on Twitter.

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  • I am PS3 Home user and an avid Mag Gamer.I must say,Being able to play Mag for a few hours,take a breakl and launch into home and head to one of the Mag Barracks within the Home application allows me to stay in that game mode even when I am not playing.
    Especially since these Barracks are pretty much exact duplictes of areas from the game as your own private Apt.
    The music inside each of Homess “Mag Barracks”, is themed with that factions music from the game which really has pulled me in.If you are a serious gamer and looking for a way to deepen the experience,have Clan meetings at your barracks and then launch your clan into the game…
    This is something you really should look into.