When Microsoft first announced the Xbox 360, players were immediately captivated by the Achievement system. An Achievement was simply an event that the player must complete in a game to unlock. Each Achievement has its own number of points and each game can have a maximum of 1,000 points—less if you are an Arcade title. Like rumble, Sony ignored this system and didn't offer it to their players. For the longest times, we heard talk that there was a struggle at Sony over this decision and that Sony would release a system called Entitlements. This was partially true. Sony has quietly launched a firmware update to deliver Trophies to players. So I investigated at E3 2008 to see who is using these trophies and how hard they were to implement to past titles. The results were surprising.
For every PlayStation 3 game I saw, my first question was regarding Trophies. I fully expected Developers to get really excited about them and tell me that they were going to take the 360 Achievements and at least make the same ones available for the PS3 users. This was not the case. I spoke to Developers at Sega, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Warner Bros, Insomniac, EA, MTV, THQ, Konami, Capcom, and Midway, and asked them to tell me about their plans for PS3 Trophies. The answers I received were a simple no, to we won't think about that until the end, to Sony isn't making it easy, to Sony isn't giving us the tools needed to do it...
As the show went on, I pressed several developers for more details. I am choosing to keep names of Developers and what title they were working on quiet because the conversations seemed more off of the record. For the many developers that told me no, I pressed harder and they told me that Sony hasn't finalized the SDK for them and that any Trophies that they add may have to be completely redone later. That seemed odd to me until several Developers provided me with a similar answer.
So I dug deeper and began to see if Sony's exclusive offerings from their First and Second Parties were offering trophies. Surprisingly, only one title coming out this year has Trophies. Now it is true that these can be added later. However, it is important to point out that when asked about specific upcoming titles, there were not plans to have Trophy Support in some very big releases.
Digging even deeper, I spoke to a Developer who works with Sony very closely. They have made some PS3 titles in the past and are very close to their community. I asked if they were going to add trophies to their past titles at some point in the future. They told me that the way the trophy system is set up, you have to go back and debug the entire game and it would never be economically possible for them to do so. Plus they can't commit the time for their teams to be pulled off current projects.
So the question must be raised: Why did Sony bother introducing a Trophy system, to complete with Achievements, if they weren't going to make it easy to implement and require that at least all future products use them? In this world of multiplatform releases, I know many gamers who would prefer to play the PlayStation 3 version. However, if the PS3 version doesn't have Trophies, they will buy the Xbox 360 version just for Achievements.
What exactly is Sony thinking? More importantly, where are my PS3 Trophies? Sadly, the PS3 world may never truly be able to embrace the system due to a lack of Support from Sony. For those of you who fully expect future games to use trophies, don't hold your breath. Sony isn't requiring them, making it difficult to implement, and aren't even using them for the majority of their titles, it looks like we may never see gamers' trying to play every single PS3 title to get their Trophy Score higher.