When Microsoft announced customizable avatars as part of the new Xbox Live Experience at E3 this year, we weren't alone in thinking that it was a blatant attempt to copy Nintendo's success with Miis. Not so, says Rare! In an episode of Eurogamer TV, Rare's Head of Art for Avatars Lee Musgrave explains that avatars are an idea they've been kicking around since before the Wii's Miis.
"(Avatars were) an idea we had, even before Miis were part of the gaming scene, of putting these characters that you have an affinity with, not necessarily as part of the Xbox dash, but somewhere in the Xbox that you would play multiple games with, that you would have multiple experiences with that same character"
So while it could still be considered an attempt by Microsoft to capitalize on the success of Miis, don't drag Rare into that business. Miis were just a happy occurrence that helped bring their original idea to fruition. The Eurogamer TV Show: Rare on Avatars [Eurogamer via Strategy Informer]