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(Featured image credit goes to Imgur user chiefspartan. You can check out his excellent Nintendo Achievement mock-ups here.)
It was 12 years ago, back in 2005, when Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 and introduced the first achievement system to the world in the form of the Gamerscore. Though there were those who initially thumbed their noses with skepticism at the idea, it wasn’t long before it was catching on industry-wide. Well almost industry-wide, that is.
While Steam developed an achievement system in 2007, and Sony crafted one of their own in 2008, there is still one major outlier that has been sitting on the sidelines of the idea for years. Yes, we are of course speaking of that Beatnik-hippie-dinosaur we all know and love (most of the time), Nintendo.
Why on earth, nearly 10 years after every other major platform has adopted achievements, is Nintendo still ignoring the idea? As my podcasting compatriot John Cal McCormick so eloquently put it: no one hates achievements — either they like them or they’re indifferent to them. So why is Nintendo still rocking an achievement-free system on the Switch?
Let me take you back a few years to E3 2014, and the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be coming to the PS4. Now, as you might recall, the announcement was initially greeted with stunned silence and a bit of awkward applause. Obviously, at the time, everyone in the audience had expected Square-Enix to announce the long anticipated FFVII remake (which they would, in turn, announce the following E3).
What does this have to do with Nintendo and the notion of achievements, you ask. Well, a quick look at the numbers for the PS4 version of FFVII will give you an idea of the kind of sales that a small addition like trophies can offer to a classic game that everyone has bought five times already, and played through probably more times than that.
Why Nintendo, the company with easily the largest back-catalog of beloved, nostalgia-laden, classic games would not buy into this idea whole-heartedly is beyond me. Imagine, just for a second the kind of fantastic moments this could lead to for people who are even moderately into achievements.
Pulling out the master sword in Ocarina of Time: Achievement unlocked — “Hero of Time.” Finishing off Mother Brain at the end of Super Metroid: Achievement unlocked — “Braindead.” Flying for the first time in Super Mario Bros. 3: Achievement unlocked — “When Tanookis Fly!”
I could literally do this all day but I think you get the idea. Nintendo’s got more cache with gamers than anyone else in the business, and nothing ingratiates people to a company more than giving them more ways to enjoy something they already love. Why do you think companies are suddenly supporting their major releases with new updates and content for years on end? It’s a cheap and effective way to produce revenue while giving fans what they want, which is more of a good thing. It’s a win for everyone.
This is just half the question, though, as classic games are only a part of the potential of this idea being introduced by Nintendo. As Xenoblade Chronicles showed all the way back in 2012 (!), an effective achievement system can easily be developed and implemented into a Nintendo exclusive game. It’s as if Monolithsoft were nudging Nintendo awake while they slept through the best parts of the movie.
This doesn’t just apply to exclusives either, as when a multi-platform game launches, what motivation does one have to pick it up on a Nintendo console? Generally, in most generations, the Nintendo console has been the weakest in terms of hardware, so you’re certainly not going to go their way for graphics or performance. Meanwhile, every other platform has better performance, and extra features (like achievements) that you can’t get on the Nintendo platform. With that in mind, barring folks who only own Nintendo consoles, what reason would anyone possibly have to grab a multiplatform game on the Wii, Wii U, or Switch?
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: what’s in it for Nintendo? Well aside from the good will this sort of thing would engender toward the Big N, how about parity with the competition? But, no, I know what you’re really asking: where’s the financial motivation to implement an achievement system?
Well the answer is actually really simple. Anyone who went from the Wii to the Wii U, and transferred over their virtual console games will recall that they were given the chance to purchase a slightly upgraded Wii U version of their software for the meager price of around $1. The new Wii U version had things like Restore points, and other features not found in the Wii version of the software. So the easy answer, then, is to launch an achievement system with the virtual console on the Switch, and again give people the opportunity to simply upgrade their software. Simple enough right?
Nintendo has already built up a ton of good will this year with the launch of the Switch and its game of the year contender, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Hell, they even announced not one, but two, new Metroid games. If they want to keep riding the wave of good will, why not give people something else they want, and something that can be developed and implemented for a relatively low cost?
What would come next? Well, just a veritable acre of folks Facebook sharing, Tweeting and whatever-the-hell-elsing their various Nintendo achievements, while talking endlessly about how much fun they’re having working their way through some of their favorite Nintendo games again.
Finally, there’s one more great reason that this idea would benefit Nintendo. At the moment, the software for the Switch is still relatively sparse. For Nintendo, though, any time spent playing the Switch over another console is still good for business, and it justifies the price of buying a new console, while giving Switch-preferential players something to do while they wait for the next big release.
So, there you have it, not just one reason but a laundry list of them for why Nintendo should absolutely, and unequivocally, get onboard the achievement train. It benefits them, and it benefits us… so what are they waiting for? Coins, stars, whatever you want Nintendo, just get on it!
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