I really don’t care about ‘Achievements’, to be honest. In my eyes, they’re just virtual badges which only value is that it gives whoever earns them some bragging rights. With that said, the news that broke a few days ago that Nintendo is allegedly developing an achievement system for Switch didn’t move me in the slightest. But, I decided to give the topic some thought and eventually came to this conclusion: If achievements really are added to the Switch, they better be worth something truly meaningful.
Some of you may already be irate because I dissed the worth of achievements. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are a lot of people out there who love them. That’s easy to see since they’re such a popular feature of Xbox and PlayStation’s online ecosystem. Despite their popularity, I’ve never truly cared for them. Even so, I do understand why they’re so popular.
The folks over at Microsoft are the ones responsible for getting the craze started. ‘Achievements’ were introduced during the early days of the Xbox 360 era. These virtual tasks were added to all games and completing them would boost the player’s ‘Gamerscore’. Having a high Gamerscore was the perfect way to show off to friends and other players around the world. As a result, quite a number of folks started ploughing through games to do just so. Sony eventually realized the popularity of the achievement system and rebranded it into PlayStation Trophies for PS3. Now, achievements/trophies continue to thrive on Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, and have even come to PC via Steam and Xbox Live (Xbox Play Anywhere).
Nintendo are the only ones who have yet to adopt the ‘Achievement’ system. Considering the popularity of achievements/trophies during the 360 & PS3 days, I suppose it’s surprising that this functionality wasn’t added to the Wii U. With the aforementioned news that a system for Switch really is in the works, it seems that Nintendo has come to realize that it’s something a lot of gamers are interested in—but I’m still not. However, I’m willing to change my mind. What will it take? All I ask of you Nintendo is that you make your achievement system worth something.
Achievements/Trophies are popular on the other systems, but they’re really nothing more than virtual badges only good for bragging rights.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s simple. In their current state, achievements, trophies—whatever you want to call them—are superficial. The only value they have is that they give players bragging rights. While some achievements are thrown at players frivolously, most games tend to have a few which actually require a lot of skill and patience to obtain. Some players will put several extra hours into a game all for the sake of nabbing a rare achievement. Picking up on this, companies implemented a rarity meter into the system, which shows what percentage of players have earned trophies in each game. This gives players even more incentive to chase after the trophies, looking to be one of the few to obtain an ultra-rare one. But, really, all it boils down to is nothing more than a pride competition. Getting an ultra-rare achievement/trophy may score you some social points, but that’s really the only reward. It does absolutely nothing tangible; whether you get a rare achievement or not has no effect on the game itself. This is quite the opposite of how games used to be.
Achievements/Trophies are basically the modern-day equivalents of Unlockables. However, this seems to be a step backward. I say that because back when Unlockables were prevalent, they actually added real content to games—hence the name. Players would spend hours doing these challenging, highly specific tasks with the intent of not just gaining bragging rights, but also a tangible reward. Like achievements, developers mainly added Unlockables because that would make some players extend their playtime by several hours; it’s padding. The difference is, before that extra padding got you something cool like a new costume, extra mode or even a secret level or item. With achievements, it’s just a virtual badge and nothing more. This is where Nintendo can step in.
Since Nintendo loves to do things differently than the competition, I would love to see an achievement system that actually rewards players with tangible items for their efforts. The system can still follow the established formula of gaining achievements from different games to boost a player’s overall ‘Score’. But, what Nintendo could do is take advantage of that scoring mechanic. As a player increases their overall score, they could gain access to rewards like discounts on digital purchases, or fun content like themes, wallpapers, music, etc. Nintendo already has a reward system in the form of the My Nintendo service. This service uses virtual gold and silver coins which can be collected by doing things like purchasing Switch, 3DS and Wii U titles digitally and even just by logging into Miiverse regularly. The coins can be used to unlock rewards like some of the things I mentioned earlier (eShop discounts, wallpapers, etc.), and more. Nintendo could take this system and merge it with achievements.
By merging Switch Achievements with the My Nintendo service, Nintendo could make earning Achievements worth it by offering rewards.
If Nintendo did something like this, I would happily start grinding through games to gain more achievements. It would no longer be work and effort for something frivolous, but rather it would be work and effort for actual rewards. In fact, allowing players to gain real rewards would make a number of people more interested in achievements since we humans love to earn stuff. How do parents get their kids to willingly do chores? Throw in a kickback! “If you clean your room today, you’ll get $10!” “Take out the trash, do the dishes and mow the lawn for two weeks and I’ll consider getting you that new game you wanted…” How do bosses boost the work output of their employees? Raises! Extended vacations! I can give more examples, but you get the point—humans love being rewarded. Anytime we know doing something will get us something else we want in return, our minds are more inclined to willingly complete the task. That’s why people get up and slog to work every day—because they know that paycheck is coming.
That is what I want from an achievement system: real rewards. Sure, the bragging rights may be cool for some people, but to me, gaining achievements amounts to nothing more than a temporary burst of dopamine and a reason to gloat. Spending six extra hours in a game just for the sake of getting that one stubborn achievement just seems like a chore to me. I understand that some people see achievements as an incentive to stick with a game longer, but it really just boils down to being nothing more than glorified padding.
So, if Nintendo can implement a real rewards system into its alleged achievements for Switch, then I will totally be ready to spend those six extra hours to get that ultra-rare achievement if it means I can at least get a 30% discount on my next eShop purchase.