Throughout the years, the video game industry has seen relatively few innovations that have changed the way we play games. Some of the innovations we have seen include: the cartridge, d-pad, CD-ROM format, high scores, battery backup for game saves, analog control stick, the rumble pack, and motion sensitive technology. In November of 2005, Microsoft unleashed the Xbox 360 to the public and instantly players were hooked. Some of the success can be attributed to it being a new console release. However, despite this, and with only a few blockbuster titles released in the first few months of life, players sought to play all Xbox 360 titles. What was the cause of this? Almost unanimously, new Xbox 360 owners claimed they were addicted to the new Achievement system. Thus, a new innovation in gaming was created.
So what exactly is this Achievement system and why is it causing gamers to play even the "lesser quality" Xbox 360 titles? Every Xbox 360 game includes a list of Achievements that players unlock by accomplishing different tasks in the game. As the players unlock an Achievement, the system pops up a dialogue box stating that the Achievement is unlocked. Each Achievement has a different point value associated with it and the sum of all your points generates your GamerScore. Downloaded Xbox Live Arcade titles can include a maximum of 200 GamerScore points and retail titles can include up to 1,000.
Unlocking these Achievements varies in difficulty and complexity. Some titles, like King Kong, unlock the Achievements as you beat the game. Other titles, like Madden, give you Achievements for completing a First Down or going to a particular menu screen. However, some of these are not easy to unlock or extremely time-consuming. Madden is a good example of this. While it is true the game offers a ton of very easy Achievements, there is one that requires you to play through 30 years of the Franchise Mode to unlock it. This can take several hours to accomplish even if you simulate it. Another example of a difficult challenge is in Dynasty Warriors. To unlock a large portion of the achievements, players will have to recruit the majority of characters to their empire. While this can be done over a multitude of levels, expect to log 20+ hours to fully complete this one.
As you can see, Achievements can be very easy or extremely difficult to obtain. In the quest to feed players' addiction to the Achievement system, several websites have sprung up that offer a list of all Achievements for every single released Xbox 360 game, forums to seek specific help, and Achievement Guides to give step by step help in obtaining these Achievements. These websites can not only help you in unlocking items you need assistance with--but can also uncover ways to exploit the system and unlock Achievements with cheat codes, other players online, or even with a second controller.
Why would a company allow players to use cheat codes and still unlock Achievements? It is further proof of the addiction players have to the system. Let's say a Publisher is getting ready to release a PS2/Xbox game on the 360 with "slightly upgraded" visuals. Why would anyone spend ten bucks more for the 360 version of the game when the exact same title is already on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox? If a player can unlock 1,000 more GamerScore points, they will usually pay extra to get the Xbox 360 version of the game.
The Xbox 360 has a huge social aspect to it via Xbox Live. It allows for you to compare your Achievements with those on your Friends list. This is the ultimate system for bragging rights. Now you can prove the stuff you have accomplished!
Despite the success of this system, Nintendo and Sony have refused to incorporate something similar in their titles. But Microsoft is continuing to embrace the system by moving it to other platforms. Soon gamers will be able to achieve Achievements by playing cellular phone games, or by playing certain PC games on Vista. While it remains to be seen if players will flock to other platforms just to obtain achievements, it is safe to assume that their addiction to have the highest GamerScore will lead them to support the Xbox brand. Their addiction could even make Microsoft the leader of this console generation.
Sony and Nintendo, I hope you are paying attention. This is something gamers want to see on all platforms.