Microsoft's Mandated Achievements

A GameDaily feature on Microsoft's "Achievement Points" program for gamers has gotten a lot of bloggers' attention. Robert Scoble, for example, believes Microsoft will eventually extend beyond games and use as a secret weapon against the likes of Google and Yahoo.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First the basics, courtesy of the GameDaily article:

In 2005, the marketing folks at Microsoft had a brainstorm. The Xbox 360 console had just been released and, to sell more games, they decided they would start doling out "achievement points." Play enough games, collect enough points, and you could cash them in for ... nothing, nothing at all. What a concept!

And (emphasis added):

Here's how the points system works: Microsoft mandates that every developer of Xbox 360 games "hide" 1,000 achievement points in every retail game and 200 in every casual game. Players earn points for certain successes in the game. The more challenging the task, the more points are added to the player's profile -- or Gamerscore -- which is visible to anyone who cares to look.

Appealing to users' competitive nature and vanity is fine. But mandating that developers put these points into anything that will run on your platform? That sounds a lot like old behaviors which got the Redmond folks in trouble. If they do try to extend these vanity points beyond gaming, I hope the strong-arming will be left behind.

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