Leading poker provider Pacific Poker (an 888.com brand) today announced a new release of their poker software which enables users to choose their own avatars. The options are quite limited by Meez standards, with only 15 default avatar choices, and even more limiting, the table always rotates so that your avatar is on the bottom, so that you look at the back of his/her head.
However, it's a big step forward as the large poker/gaming operators are starting to understand that giving regular (meaning non-hard core) users a personality at the table is a great way to encourage more mainstream players to join the service, and that you might even be able to sell or grant them visual upgrades in the future, such as unique clothing items or special animations. It's one more way to create community and personality around a gaming/community service, which helps to drive up "barriers to exit" as competition emerges.
The overall trend of giving users the increasing ability to personalize their game experience is accelerating, whether its making a Mii on the Nintendo Wii, modifying your avatar in Guitar Hero 3, or changing your character in EA's Tiger Woods Golf. In fact, some of the console publishers have told me that modifying your character is now a top design criteria for certain types of upcoming games. Of course, as this trend extends to web-based and Internet connected, handheld games, Meez will be a big part of it, both in our own games like Dance Floor Destroyer, and with 3rd party ones, so contact us if you're interested in partnering.