As part of the PlayStation 3 firmware 3.0 update launching on September 1st, Sony will introduce premium avatars for gamers to customize their profile and more dynamic, animated themes to add additional flair to their XMB (Cross Media Bar) interface.
I spoke with PlayStation Network director Eric Lempel this afternoon about the changes coming in firmware 3.0 and he provided more detail about what gamers can expect. Lempel said there would continue to be new, free avatars released to players, but suggested avatars related to actual games (i.e. a Nathan Drake avatar) would cost money.
"Basically, there won't be a major difference [between standard and premium avatars], it just kind of depends on what the avatar is and if there's a cost associated with the avatar," explained Lempel. "It won't do anything different. … But depending on if it's IP [intellectual property] related or what it may cost to develop, we may charge for that avatar."
Lempel promised there was more free content on the way, but suggested the free avatars will be more of the generic variety, not assets pulled from actual games. The new avatars are also open to third-parties, but Lempel didn't have any announcements to share.
He did clarify that avatars won't necessarily be there when firmware 3.0 launches.
"You might not see it day one," he said. "We're starting to get a lot of stuff in and we're working through the process to get it up."
In the demonstration video on the PlayStation Blog, Lempel showed an enhanced premium theme for LittleBigPlanet much more animated than seen in previous themes available for PlayStation 3, whether for purchase or otherwise. These are a new subsection of premium themes, said Lempel.
"It's kind of another category within premium things, so it's another level," he said. "We've got some themes today that can do some limited functionality, these gives the developer a great deal of tools to make them really exciting and do a lot with them."
It will most likely come at an added cost, however.
"[That's] a good assumption," admitted Lempel. "We're still working out the strategy but realistically there is more work that goes into developing these."