Can Microsoft Make the Xbox Live Experience More Socially Compelling?

Last year, Microsoft attempted to garner a foothold in the social networking industry with the “New Xbox Experience.”

Microsoft’s main idea was to provide the 14 million Xbox Live subscribers with a means to socially interact with each other. Microsoft also hoped to attract a broader, more casual audience — reminiscent to Nintendo’s Wii.

Despite Microsoft’s efforts, the Xbox Live Community has been a stale place. Although Microsoft incorporated rare-designed avatars, and discussed the inclusion of user-generated avatars, these capabilities provide users with nothing more than eye-candy. Unlike Playstation Home (which seems to be doing better as a social device), there is nowhere for users to just hang out and explore.

Perhaps yesterday’s announcement that Facebook Connect integration is coming to Xbox Live this fall will help. Now, users can link their Xbox Live GamerTag to their Facebook profile and play Xbox games with Facebook friends through Facebook Connect, as well as easily post screenshots from the game directly to Facebook.

Avatars, on their own, almost feel cliché at the moment, which makes the fact you can create one on the Xbox community not a huge value proposition for most users.  But Microsoft might try to frame the value of its avatars in a new way, by listing their achievements. It might make users more interested in getting involved with the community.

Last month, Microsoft began running a series of surveys that might help the company clarify the point of its avatar system. Of particular interest is the very first question (the rest of the survey can be found below): “I would like…(a) to earn special avatar gear within a game (e.g., a special hat) just like I can earn achievements.”

Considering that the achievement system built into Xbox Live has been one of the most duplicated elements for social games (and beyond), something like this could crystallize the purpose of their Live avatars. Game players like to succeed and feel as if they have accomplished something significant. By providing them with a means to physically display their achievements, Microsoft can give them virtual “bragging rights.”

Will this encompass the casual crowd? Probably not. But Microsoft will keep trying to create value with their avatars. Some examples include avatars that are auto-generated to look like their owners (using the Xbox Live Vision Camera, most likely). It is also considering “family” avatars, kids, and even pets.

[Survey Image via Kotaku]