Xbox Indie Games in Need of Achievements

Xbox Indie Games in Need of Achievements

Written by on April 9, 2010 in [, , , , , , , , ]

When the Xbox 360 launched in November of 2005, Microsoft required games on the system to have achievements that players could earn for completing tasks in the game.  At the time there was some doubt how useful this system would be. Today, game achievements have changed gaming for a great many players.  Some gamers don’t consider a game truly finished until all the achievements have been unlocked, squeezing every bit of gamerscore out of the title.  This innovation in how gamers game has even coined new terms such as ‘Achievement Junkies’ or the more uncouth term ‘Achievement Whore.’  These labels may be slightly derogatory and there is a segment of gamers that feel that achievements have ruined a true gaming experience.  However no one can deny that some sort of reward system, be it achievements or trophies, are now common place across virtually all gaming platforms including smartphones.

Before Sony Playstation made their trophy system mandatory, games available on both Sony and Microsoft consoles would sell more on the Xbox 360 because of the thrill of unlocking achievements as one key deciding purchasing factor.  Players can unlock achievements on retail game discs, online Xbox Live Arcade games, and some free and paid DLC.  Current rumor has it that games coming to the Windows 7 smartphone later this year will also carry unlockable Xbox Live achievements rewarding players with even more gamerscore they can add to their gamercards.   Achievements are now an important part of the Xbox Live gaming experience with one glaring exception, Xbox Live Indie Games.

Launched in late 2008 as Community Games, gamers could purchase these fun homebrew games to play on their Xbox 360 console.  These games were made using the XNA Game Studio and play-tested in the XNA Creator’s Club before being made available for purchase by Xbox Live users at different Microsoft Point tiers starting at 80 MSP (equivalent to about $1) to 400 MSP (roughly $5).  In 2009 Microsoft rebranded the Community Games marketplace as Indie Games.  Each Indie Game offers a time-limited trial for players to try out, however the conversion rate from trial to purchase has been very low with few exceptions.  There are plenty of truly great Indie Games made for the service including’s Ska-Studios’s I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!! and Mommy’s Best Games’ Shoot 1Up. By February 2010 over 800 games have been released to the service but not one achievement has ever popped up on a player’s screen playing an Indie Game.

With achievements available on disc-based games, Xbox Live Arcade games, downloadable content, and rumored to be on the Windows 7 phone; there isn’t any justifiable excuse why achievements shouldn’t also be present with Indie Games.  If achievements were to be included with Indie Games it would benefit these XNA creators as more of their games would be purchased by gamers who place value or have bought into the achievement or gamerscore system.  Also having achievements attached to Xbox Live’s Indie Games gives them an air of credibility to some.  It signals to gamers and the game community that, to borrow a term from the sitcom Seinfeld, Indie Games are “sponge worthy.”  Having achievements in Indie Games would also add longevity to some titles if said achievements required multiple play-through or item hunting. Microsoft can decide how much gamerscore can be garnered from having achievements in Indie Games, but I do recommend keeping them in a competitive ballpark with their Xbox Live Arcade games if they truly want the Indie Game sales to pick up.  Nathan Fouts, President of Mommy’s Best Games had this to say of achievements for Indie Games:

“Achievements for Indie Games would further level the ground for Indie Games compared to boxed and XBLA games, increasing competition, and thus encouraging stronger game experiences for everyone in the future. Plus, who doesn’t want to unlock 20 Gamerpoints for destroying Mecha Liliths ‘cannons’ without losing a ship?”

Now I know there are some arguments against having achievements in Xbox Live’s Indie Games.  The chief reason against them is what I dub ‘the Little Big Planet argument.’  In Little Big Planet, players can create their own levels that gamers use their Sackboys to explore.  Little Big Planet has several trophies tied to different actions in levels including traveling to great heights and of course acquiring score or prize bubbles.  These trophies have lead to the rise of trophy-rewarding player-created levels whose sole purpose to attain trophies quickly and without much player skill involved.  Indie Games can easily avoid falling into the same rut, before a game can be published on the marketplace it has to be tested by the XNA Creator’s Club.  Perhaps during this evaluation and testing period, games that are simply just an achievement treasure chest can be weeded out before they dilute the Indie Game waters.

Microsoft issued this statement concerning achievements in Indie Games:

“Microsoft consistently monitors feedback from the XNA Creators Club Online community and is aware that many independent developers would like to be able to include Xbox LIVE Achievements and Leaderboards in their games. Since the launch of Xbox LIVE Indie Games in 2008, Microsoft has made several updates to improve the service for independent developers based on their feedback. Although we don’t have any announcements to make at this time, Microsoft will continue to make the desires of the independent community a priority for future updates to XNA Game Studio and Xbox LIVE Indie Games.”

Whether intentional or not, not having achievements in Indie Games sets up Indie Games marketplace as a sort of baseball farm team.  They are treated like a AA ball team that still draws a crowd but aren’t ready to play in the major league.  It’s this mentality that leads some XNA creators to hold off on publishing their game on Indie Game in hopes they can the call to come join the cool kids in Xbox Live Arcade.  For me, a game is a game is a game and I want to see the Indie Game marketplace flourish.  The biggest stamp of approval and acceptance by gamers is giving them the ability to boost their gamerscore while unlock achievements in some of the very cool gems Xbox Indie Games has to offer.


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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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