By Jared Newman | Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 4:27 pm
I can’t recall my reaction when Microsoft introduced Achievements alongside the Xbox 360, but I definitely didn’t expect them to have such a profound impact on the games industry. Now, one game developer says that Achievements, particularly the easy ones, can drive game sales.
Speaking to Official Xbox Magazine, Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford said there’s a subset of gamers who base their purchasing decisions on a game’s Achievement per minute ratio. “He’s playing a lot,” Pitchford said. “So he’s a very frequent customer, and you want to be in that pile. That’s just business.”
Achievements are the new-age embodiment of the high score, rewarding players for their in-game accomplishments with a universal point system. Having a lot of points, or a high Gamerscore, as it’s called, means you play a lot of games with at least a modicum of skill.
After Microsoft popularized the idea, Sony duplicated it with Playstation 3 trophies, and so did Valve on its Steam PC gaming platform. Entire sites exist for the purpose of documenting achievements, and at least one person is building a reputation for hunting down the most points. There’s a game that mocks the obsession, and heck, at times my inner Atari gamer prods me to play on a harder difficulty, just to get the most points.
I’m skeptical of Pitchford’s claim that Achievement hunters are a lucrative demographic, because they’re probably more inclined to rent a game and mine its points than to buy it outright. But I’m uncomfortable with his suggestion that game designers are “the worst” (emphasis his) at coming up with Achievement criteria — and therefore driving sales. I’m not sure who else he has in mind, but the last thing game design needs is more influence from the business side.
After all, one of my greatest Achievement-related pleasures was playing through Mirror’s Edge without ever shooting an enemy, and I wouldn’t have been compelled to do so without the “Test of Faith” Achievement. I’m guessing the developers were behind that one, as it emphasized the game’s flight-over-fight mechanics. That achievement felt good, and I wouldn’t want it compromised just to pawn off a few more sales on people who care about nothing but easy points.