Gamerscore: Yesterday, Today, and the Future

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2011 marks the ninth birthday for Microsoft's online juggernaut, Xbox Live. The service began as an honorable attempt to create an experience unseen in past console generations; nine years later it has turned into a successful online enhancement headlined by countless features that continue to connect gamers across the globe. Of all the fantastic features created, one of the most innovated is also one of the most overlooked: gamerscore. Gamerscore has proved to be a betterment for online play, but as the Xbox 360's life cycle comes to a close and we look to Microsoft's future console plans, we analyze where the feature has been and where it can go.

When the original Xbox launched Xbox Live back in 2002, the service was unarguably not the success is it today. In fact, it can be argued that if it wasn't for Halo: Combat Evolved, we would not see the Xbox 360 nor the Live service we have grown to know and love today. Combat Evolved lifted the console out of the murky waters and eventually allowed Microsoft to start working on new features for the Xbox 360: gamerscore was one of these features. Honestly, the idea of a system measuring points earned from titles you play sounded a bit silly, even as a thirteen year-old then. But as users started to hear that wonderful chime from unlocking an achievement, the entire system turned into a frenzy.

Still to this day I cannot answer why gamerscore is such sensation. Perhaps it is because as humans we are wired to competition, and as your friends started playing and amassing gamerscore, you had to surpass them. It could also be the fact that it was first seen as a way to measure your level as a "gamer" - though its obvious that a high gamerscore does not make you anymore of a gamer than someone with a low gamerscore. Either way, it expanded the community and helped push along new ideas for both developers and gamers. Since 2005 we have seen countless titles benefit from achievements, even tailoring their gameplay around it. The feature has kept players playing games longer, simply trying to earn every achievement to raise their gamerscore. Heck, before gamerscore, no one really could label themselves as a "completionist."

Xbox Live isn't the only one to benefit from the feature's success. Thanks to gamerscore, several publications and websites have been created to report on achievement leaks or achievement help. Xbox360achievements.org is one example to this. Also, sites like GameZone report achievement/gamerscore news on a regular basis. This wide spectrum had never been seen before, and now, because of gamerscore's success, other platforms are using similar systems: PS3 - Trophies, Wii - Wii score, PC - World of Warcraft, etc.

While gamerscore has undergone little change since 2005, there are several ways the feature can expand even more. Since gamerscore continues to keep gamers playing games, why not reward players for their gamerscore? Whether or not the reward is even substantial, reaching a certain milestone (whether it be 10,000 GS, 20,000 GS, etc.) and receiving - for example - Microsoft Points can only motivate gamers to purchase more titles to amass an even higher gamerscore. Also, why limit the amount of gamerscore a developer can put into a game? I understand the fact that Microsoft wants games to ship with 1,000 GS or less, but if a developer wishes to add gamerscore/achievements (above the 1,750 cap) post-release, why say no? Developers have created some witty achievements that keep players playing and create some hilarious gameplay (a la Halo 3). It's great a business tool and provides excellent fan-service for gamers: a win-win situation.

While several features on the Xbox 360 have been questioned for their worth, gamerscore is one that has only been acclaimed for its worth. It has been a stellar six years of gaming with the gamerscore system, but it's even crazier to think how much more the feature can offer to players. It's a no brainer that gamerscore will be included with Microsoft's next console, the only question is in what way? Until then, get on Xbox Live and raise that gamerscore!

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Tate Steinlage I write words about video games and sports. Hope you like them.
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