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Is Microsoft on the verge of ruining Achievements?

Jurassic: The Hunted is a terrible game, and there were dozens of better FPS titles I could be playing during the 2009 holiday break. And yet I was spending my valuable time playing a terrible game, just as I’d done with Hannah Montana: The Movie a week earlier. It was all to get easy Achievement points in the disarmingly simple metagame that Microsoft built into its 360. After spending years of adding to it via games good and bad, I’m very attached to my Gamerscore of 66,370. It’s a number that I once was excited to bring over to the Xbox One. But I now worry that I’ll have to abandon my Gamerscore as Microsoft is on the verge of ruining the entire concept of Achievements just as its next system launches.

What turned me? The announcement of the Day One edition of the Xbox One after Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference. A special version of the system is a cute way of awarding early adopters, but on top of a specially branded controller, the console comes with an exclusive Day One Achievement. Presumably you turn on your system on launch day and up your Gamerscore in a way no future owner can. Instead of a cute addition, it felt like the start of a very unsettling trend.

First off, Achievements to date had been restricted to games. Gamers upped their scores by playing titles of varying degrees of quality. As Microsoft kept nudging its Xbox division towards being as much a media hub as a gaming machine, Achievements reminded you the 360 still played video games. The Day One award is meant as an immediate signal that Achievements have changed on Xbox One. Sadly, it feels like the beginning of a tidal wave of non-game Achievements that will ruin the value of every Gamerscore out there.

So what are we looking at if Achievements become divorced from the games themselves? Reports are already circulating that Kinect will award Achievements for watching TV. Maybe you’ll be given 15G for switching channels by saying “Xbox, TV.” Perhaps watching every NBA playoff game through the Xbox One will net you 40G. Moves like that will undoubtedly cheapen the uniqueness of Achievements, but that’ll just be the beginning.

Once Achievements spread to TV functionality, what’s to stop Microsoft from selling Achievements as part of some advertising package? Did the Kinect witness you sitting through a series of McDonald’s commercials? You just earned “Loving it!” (10G) Did you opt in for the 20-minute infomercial for deodorant? Then you definitely deserve the “Smelling Good” (15G) reward for putting up with that. The 360 dashboard is already covered in ads, but Achievements could give those corporations the ability to pretend they’re doing players a service by directly linking Gamerscore to advertisements.

Beyond the hyper-commercial aspects of Achievement proliferation is the fact that all these new avenues for Achievements will inflate the already precarious virtual economy. The scarcity of Achievements is what makes a Gamerscore special. It takes real dedication to break 100,000 Gamerscore. When you can start earning points for every possible feature the Xbox One offers, who knows how exclusive a six digit score will be? That’s up to Microsoft, and how much it wants to favor returning users over new buyers.

It’s great that your Gamerscore will transfer over to the Xbox One, but what if it’s your first Microsoft system? You hop on Live and see you’re at 0GS, surrounded by people with 50,000 points. Those new players might get scared away from collecting Achievements and Microsoft can’t have that. An all-too-easy fix would be to up the average Achievement value by the power of 10. A formerly 20G award becomes 200G. 10,000G will become the norm for a retail game and everyone will hit 100,000G that much faster. We’ve already seen MS up the standard XBLA game total to 400G. It’d be just as simple to up the Achievement output of all Xbox One games to indulge fresh players at the cost of your years of Gamerscore collection.

You’d think I’d be happy a happy little Achievement junkie now that the Xbox One is ready to start handing out Achievements left and right, upping my Gamerscore for every moment I spend on the system. But it’s turning into too much of a good thing. Developers discovered that they could use Achievements to manipulate players to do what they want, and I was okay being the lab rat that chased after the cheese. But when that manipulation extends to getting spied on by Kinect or watching dozens of commercials, I’d rather just leave my Gamerscore in the current generation.

70 comments

  • GlobalNightmare - June 30, 2013 3:42 a.m.

    I find that achievements/trophies have damaged the mentality of a large number of gamers. Before, it used to be about enjoying the game, and reaping the awards of in-game unlockables. Now, people get obsessed with a "perfect score" or "platinum"; attempting riduculous feats just to get those precious little nothings. My friend still has not played Skyrim and has only just started Black ops 2 because he feels he cannot start a new game unless the last one has been finished "completely". He doesn't play at all now because he feels too frustrated at the difficulty of some achievements. I see achievements as a bonus and a reflection of how you played a game. This way, I will never become an achievement whore, just simply a gamer enjoying his time in the digital realm.
  • goobypls - April 29, 2014 4:41 p.m.

    The problem with achievements is that devs don't really understand what are they supposed to be. I see 3 different types of cheevos: a) milestones for campaign, complete act 1,2,3 etc. b) challenges, defeat a boss without exploiting his weakness, beat the game without dying etc. c) fillers, uninspired achievements that doesn't really mean anything. talk to a horse 100 times, drink 500 poitons, or die 100 times (actual achievements from torchlight) type A achievements are alright, and unavoidable. type B are great, but can be frustrating at times. type C are just stupid and shouldn't exist. Sadly, we get way too much of them.
  • Shinn - June 25, 2013 8:04 a.m.

    You know you have a valid opinion when so many people take the time to write essay long comments in disagreement.
  • Pruman - June 25, 2013 7:52 a.m.

    Yet another reason to avoid the system if true. Enjoy your AdBox One, suckers!
  • mothbanquet - June 25, 2013 7:36 a.m.

    Hmm, seems that a few people don't know an opinion piece when they see one. Chin up, Henry, the way MS is going right now, I wouldn't be surprised if any of your speculation turned out to be true.
  • avantguardian - June 24, 2013 7:37 p.m.

    i would have to concur with some others, that this baseless speculation should be below GR's standards. my perception, of course.
  • XNam360 - June 25, 2013 12:05 a.m.

    Yeah, this article was pretty bad. None of it was based on facts at all - and even the main accusation, claiming that Microsoft is doing anything different, is wrong, because special non-game related 0G achievements already exist.
  • D0CCON - June 24, 2013 2:20 p.m.

    I don't think this will devalue achievements anymore than having a Hannah Montana game maxed out on your gamer card will (I was going to go with the obvious Avatar, but the article gave me a better suggestion). As soon as I see games like that show up, I know the score is inflated just as much as I would if somebody has a "Watch an NBA playoff game" achievement. At least that could help sports fans personalize themselves online.
  • avantguardian - June 24, 2013 7:39 p.m.

    yep. considering all the shitty games i know my cheevo-whoring friends play, the 'meaning' behind them (if there ever was one) was lost a long time ago.
  • Talvari - June 24, 2013 5:07 a.m.

    Would never have thought that a bonus for being day one buyer for a new console would give you..an exclusive achievement instead of something cool like a different design on the console or like.. a free game or something i dunno. Something useful? There's probably going to be an achievement for joining XBL gold and then an extra achievement for every month you stay with it or w/e. Silly ;.;
  • Joedirt1105 - June 24, 2013 4:40 a.m.

    This site has some of the most shitty, out of date articles that I read on the internet every day. I think it's time to revamp the hiring process.
  • SpadesSlick - June 23, 2013 5:22 p.m.

    Henry, you are aware that Microsoft had a special achievement for the launch of the Xbox 360 as well? It was a 0G achievement called zero hour that was given out at the launch of the console. http://www.trueachievements.com/a29674/zero-hour-vip-achievement.htm It's exactly the same as what's happening here now. It's just a bragging right's thing, it's a 0G achievement. You can only earn 0G achievements from tv and other things, you only get gamerscore with games.
  • jeffrey-stoddard - June 23, 2013 5:28 p.m.

    Henry Gilbert obviously did ZERO research before writing this article and just threw it together in hopes he could bring in some clicks to GR from the title of the article, because negative BS about Microsoft and XB1 seems to bring in the readers these days. It's sad. What kind of journalist writes an article about something without doing any research on it?
  • XNam360 - June 25, 2013 12:11 a.m.

    Yeah, I got some non-game related 0G achievements myself as a reward for participating in an Xbox Live Labs test. I'm pretty sure that didn't ruin achievements for me as Henry Gilbert said would happen.
  • JQuest81 - June 23, 2013 5:18 p.m.

    I proudly rock my gamerscore of 5860! Haha. I tried to get into the whole GS thing, but I just couldn't, save for a few games that I thoroughly enjoyed or gave some sense of challenge. I really stopped caring about my gamerscore when a lot of the games started awarding achievements for crap you were supposed to do to complete a game in the first place, such as completing a level. Oh and losing my original score of 10,100 didn't help either.
  • jeffrey-stoddard - June 23, 2013 5:13 p.m.

    This is the most retarded article I have ever read. Obviously the author has not read Major Nelson's blog. Here is the low down on XB1 achievements, straight from Major Nelson. Note where it says ONLY GAMES WILL GIVE YOU GAMERSCORE... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- http://majornelson.com/2013/06/12/xbox-one-achievements/ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Other Xbox One applications such as video and music apps can now use Achievements to bring you awesome sneak peek content, early access, or subscription extensions. Only games will give you Gamerscore. Cool, you can earn cool stuff with Xbox LIVE Achievements. Let’s talk about how they work. There are now two types of Achievements: achievements and challenges. An achievement is probably already familiar. There’s a goal or activity you must accomplish and a reward that you receive upon completion. You can unlock an achievement at any time, be it on a game’s launch day or 3 years later. I guess you can say an achievement is like a promise in that sense. A challenge, on the other hand, is more like an opportunity – better grab it while you can! It is also comprised of a goal and a reward; however, challenges are time-bound (as in, real life time)." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So, yes you will be able to get "achievements" for things other than games, but ONLY GAMES WILL GIVE YOU GAMERSCORE. So, you very well might be able to get something like the "I'm Lovin' It!" achievement, but it would pop up on your TV screen and read.. Achievement Unlocked: I'm Lovin' It! 0G Please do more research and stop putting out false articles and speculation just to get clicks on your website. Microsoft has already been beaten and bludgeoned repeatedly for the last month. At the very least - give them some time to recover before you start breaking out the bats and torches again. I can't wait for both Xbox One and PS4. It's going to be a great year for gamers.
  • imagremlin - June 23, 2013 4:41 p.m.

    I'm not overly attached to my gamescore. I already lost it all once, thanks to Microsoft Live account mess-of-a-system. But if these achievements were to appear, it would be a matter of pride of NOT having them
  • Redeater - June 23, 2013 4:08 p.m.

    Achievements have been ruined for me anyways. I hit +120,000 and in retrospect I'm really regretting pissing away time on games like Fight Night 3 and UP (Though UP wasnt THAT terrible). Even achievements in games like Bioshock:I have lost all meaning. I miss the old days where games almost always rewarded you for doing something tedious with a cheat, unlockable art or level. Nintendo is still doing this but very rarely do you see any 360/PS4 companies doing it. More often than not it's "shoot 100 guys with a shot gun...get 10 points". At least Naughty Dog is making an attempt to justify tedium even if it is a far cry from the rewards they offered in Uncharted 1. I live in Canada so instead of going snow boarding, white water rafting.....not drowning in the massive floods here......I spent some of my free time getting 800-900 points in games like Kung-Fu Panda. Well, a lesson learned late is better than never at all I suppose.
  • Sinosaur - June 23, 2013 10:37 p.m.

    I kind of agree with this. I've done achievement hunting and it absolutely has ruined some games for me. I never finished Darksiders partially because I looked at an achievement guide that said I could clear the game in one play if I did it on hard... so I started hard and got a bit frustrated and finally stopped playing a few hours in. If I was playing on normal, I probably would have had more fun. The game that really sold me on how cool achievements could be however was... Mass Effect! Sure you got points for achievements, but if you unlocked some of them you'd get cool in game bonuses. And I even unlocked gamerpics for clearing it on Insane (still use that N7 pic). After playing that, I figured tons of other people would want to do the same, because it was so rewarding... then even Mass Effect 2 didn't really do it. Right now I've got over 40,000 achievement points after grinding out the most repetitive junk in multiple Lego games, but don't even care unless I see an achievement that I think might make a cool challenge, or lets me know I can do something I otherwise wouldn't have thought of.
  • Redeater - June 24, 2013 11:48 a.m.

    Proof I may have been more intelligent when I was a child. When I started a game I knew was bad, I quit playing immediately. I honestly can't believe I have spent my valuable time playing games I know are bad for a meaningless score. That isn't to say there isn't a certain satisfaction in 100% some games. Sometimes achievements can reward you by making you play a certain way you normally wouldn't.

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