How To Make Achievements Feel More Like An Achievement


Earlier this week I completed a challenge I set for myself way back in February of 2008: Get every achievement in "N+" on XBLA. If you've played the game, you know that the developers didn't make that very easy. The punishingly difficult platformer requires extraordinarily precise timing and reflexes. Tiny mistakes are usually rewarded with instant death. Finally finishing the game was a cathartic moment, and it made me wonder just how many other people had gone through the same trial.

Turns out that data is a little tricky to come by. Microsoft doesn't really give out exact sales numbers for their downloadable games, so I went to the next best thing. According to the "N+" leaderboards, 406,541 people have registered a score in the game's single-player campaign (as of August 30, 2010). In order to register a score, a player just needs to have beaten the first episode of the game, which can be accomplished in about 5 minutes.

(Obviously this doesn't include those people who only played the game offline, but considering "N+" is a downloadable game, and therefore required an Xbox Live connection to purchase, I'd wager that number of people is very small. Same goes for the number of people who gave up before finishing the first episode.)

So you have 406,541 players who, at the very least, finished the first episode. I then went and checked how many people registered a score on the last episode:

Number of Players With Registered Score On N+ Campaign Leaderboards - 406,541

Number of Players With Registered Score On N+ Final Episode Leaderboards - 8,621


Percent of Players Who Played "N+" And Actually Finished The Game - 2.12%

In layman's terms, just over 1 in every 50 people who play "N+" manage to finish the final level. That's sort of a remarkable statistic, no? Wouldn't it be cool to know that you're in such a small group of players, and wouldn't it be nice if Microsoft shared this info with you without having to dig through leaderboards? Yes, yes it would!

You can see my mock-up at the top of this post which would display the percent of players who have gotten a certain achievement. It's something that Valve has already done with every game on Steam, and would be a great addition to Xbox Live, PSN or even Apple's upcoming Game Center. This data exists, it's just a matter of bubbling it up to the surface.