Microsoft are rolling out some big behind-the-scenes changes to how gamertags work on Xbox and across their various platforms, making them more inclusive for users across the globe and easier for users to find the name that they actually want to have. Announced at E3 (and something we missed at the time in the scrum of press conferences and news), there are more character sets from around the world, and support for duplicate IDs using a new hashed number system.
Ten new worldwide alphabets are now supported, meaning that the Xbox now covers over 200 languages. These are:
- Basic Latin
- Latin-1 Supplement
- CJK Symbols for languages in China, Japan, and Korea
Further to this, you can now choose any gamertag you want, even if it’s already in use. If it isn’t a unique name, you won’t have to manually modify it yourself, but will be auto-assigned a four number suffix. So, if DeathKiller is taken, you can still choose that name, but you might be DeathKiller#8432. This is a system that’s already seen in other services such as Discord, and just as there, while the suffix is typically visible, it’s de-emphasised.
Of course, if you have a username that you’re happy with, you won’t have to change a thing. After all, if you’ve been living with a manually created numbered suffix for years, you might have become a bit attached to it.
The update is available right now, but will only be visible in the Xbox app for PC and Xbox Game Bar initially. It will be brought to mobile and consoles over the next year. Older games and systems that aren’t updated with the new functionality will continue to show older usernames without the new alphabets and suffix. Microsoft provided an example of how this will look as people make changes (or don’t)
A – An example of an updated gamertag in Hangul
B – An example of a gamertag the player chose not to change. This player was the first person to pick this name and is still known as “Pit Bear” with no change in experience.
C – An example of an updated gamertag in Cyrillic. In older experiences that haven’t updated yet, this player will continue to be known as the previous gamertag, Elder Red59233.
D – An example of a gamertag that was already taken. This user was given suffix ‘#1056’ because Doctor Hoot was already registered.
One thing that won’t change is that duplicates will always be visibly distinct. The suffix will always be displayed, but will be de-emphasised and greyed out so that your chosen username is more prominent.
What’s best about all of this is that it won’t break functionality in any circumstances. When Sony finally made user ID changes available to users in April, they cautioned that it would break some older games with online functionality, potentially wiping out microtransaction currency, wiping out game progress and trophies, and deleting user-generated content. This even affected their own LittleBigPlanet 3! For Xbox gamers, the long-standing support of name changes makes this much less painful.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony’s upcoming competitor for cloud streaming Google have just announced that they will also be offering user ID changes for Google Stadia, but only supporting distinct and unique user IDs.