One of the most interesting innovations of gaming's last generation was the Xbox 360's Gamerscore system. Achievements felt like a natural extension of something games already did. Gamers have always strove to accomplish goals for their own satisfaction. Achievements gave them something mildly tangible in return. Sony and Valve quickly jumped on the achievement train, and they've been an integral part of gaming ever since.
This generation, Sony's taken things to the next level with the PS4's new trophy system. In addition to the various rankings denoting difficulty – bronze, silver, gold, and platinum – trophies will now have a rarity level. Trophies that tons of players have earned will be designated as common, while trophies that fewer players have earned will be classified as rare, very rare, and ultra rare. Rarity levels will continually update, so only the most challenging of trophies will hold their value.
I played it for the gameplay, I swear!.
In the past, trophy hunters picked up games like Hannah Montana: The Movie when they needed more trophies to level up. Now, those looking to impress will have to try a little harder. Niche games like the Disgaea series will have a new audience, and those with enough determination to tackle gaming's biggest challenges will earn some serious bragging rights. Platinuming a game like Catherine is satisfying enough on its own, but imagine how much more thrilling it would be to know only a select few had acquired that final trophy.
Of course, some people don't have to imagine. Sites like Playfire have allowed people to track the rarity of their achievements for some time now. Still, the PS4 is bringing it into the mainstream. Now, trophy rarity isn't something you'll have to seek out on your own. It's something everyone can see – and it's going to be great for gaming.
Developers now have extra incentive to creating interesting, challenging achievement lists. Gamers now have motivation to give older games a second look. Even if a game has low sales to start with, a good collection of achievements could make it a sleeper hit. Once upon a time, anyone with a few hours to burn could gain tons of trophies by playing simple games like Monopoly: Streets, and those quick and easy trophies had the same value as the ones someone spent months earning in Dark Souls. Now, trophies will have the value they deserve.
Hero or villain?.
There's also potential in the way the new system allows us to see how we stack up against others. One of the most interesting things about Telltale Game's The Walking Dead was the way you could compare your choices to those of other players. The trophy rarity system will allow you to do the same thing for a number of games. When inFamous: Second Son arrives, you'll be able to see what kind of choices players made with Delsin. When new fighting games hit, you'll be able to use trophy rarity to gauge character popularity.
While the PS4 currently stands alone in the rarity system department, I don't think it'll be long before Microsoft follows suit. A rarity system is easy enough to patch in, and it seems like a solid continuation of what they're already doing with special achievements like the Day One achievement . A rarity system could be even more interesting on the Xbox One thanks to their media achievements. Getting an achievement for watching a TV show is pretty cool, but it'd be a lot cooler if it had a rarity level attached to it.
Like 'em or loathe 'em, it's clear that achievements are here to stay. Achievements have changed gaming in a number of ways, and it's exciting to watch them evolve. The PS4's new system has tons of promise, and I can't wait to see how it influences gaming.