NextGen Player Feature Article - Part 2 of 2
By Paul Hunter
With the launch of PS3 firmware update 2.40 on July 2, Sony has officially launched their own gamer reward system to compete with Microsoft's well entrenched Achievement system. Microsoft was the first the out of the gate, and has had two and a half years to refine and improve their product. With this experience under their belt, is Microsoft's Achievement offering better than their rival's Trophy system? Or has the extra time allowed Sony to develop a superior reward system?
In part 2 of our feature article, I will examine the reasons why Trophies are better than Achievements. To view part 1, where I examined the reasons why Achievements are better to Trophies, please click here.
Playstation Trophies - A Brief Description
PlayStation 3 Trophies are a reward system on the PS3, introduced with the PlayStation 3 System Software 2.40 update.
Game Developers have the option of including pre-defined goals within their games, which when achieved will award the player a related trophy based on the skill required to attain the goal. Trophies can be bronze, silver, gold or platinum; with platinum given to players who collect every trophy in an individual game. Sony has introduced a redesigned PS3 Network Profile which displays a list the player's recently obtained Trophies, as well as the aggregate number of each Trophy type (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) collected.
5 Reasons Why Trophies Are Better Than Achievements
Reason #1: Tiered Reward System
Sure it can be argued that Sony has taken a long time to introduce a reward system for the Playstation 3, but the extra time they have spent has been used very wisely. Instead of copying the Xbox 360 method of assigning arbitrary point values to Achievements, Sony has had plenty of time to create an innovative new way to reward gamers. They have introduced a tiered reward system that assigns gamers one of four Trophies types (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) based on the skill required to unlock. Now gamers have a much more visual and familiar representation of their accomplishments to show off to their friends.
Even more importantly, the tiered reward system will allow PS3 gamers to immediately identify the type of gamers they encounter. For instance, if you see someone with a handful of bronze Trophies, and no silver or gold, you'll know that the particular gamer is a low-skill or casual player, with little interest in tackling the hardest of challenges to acquire the more prestigious Trophies. On the other hand, if you meet a gamer 50 gold Trophies, and a number of platinum Trophies, you'll instantly know that this particular player is a serious gamer, and someone you'd easily want to be on your side during online play.
Reason #2: RPG Elements
A Playstation Trophy feature sure to appeal to stat-building fans is the 'level-up' system that assigns gamers a numerical level (each player starts at level 1), based on the number and quality of the Trophies they have collected. As you collect Trophies, you gain experience towards your next level. As an added incentive to collect the more valuable gold Trophies, more experience is gained per Trophy in comparison to silver or bronze. This will serve to reward power gamers will more experience, and a higher level than their low-skill gamer counterparts. These RPG elements add a whole lot of depth and should serve to create some fun competition with your friends. Your friend has 50 Trophies to your 25? If you have mostly silver and gold Trophies to their vast collect of bronzes - so what? You'll have less Trophies, but more than likely a higher level.
The PS3 RPG-style leveling system also serves to increase the importance of every single Trophy, making potentially more rewarding to obtain than Achievements. Instead of adding an miniscule 10 points to your ever burgeoning Xbox gamerscore, each Playstation Trophy will add to your collection of bronze, silver and gold Trophies - and any one Trophy could level you up. Suddenly easy-to-grab bronze Trophies have much more appeal. Sony intentionally does not divulge the experience point value of a Trophy, nor do they inform gamers how many points they need to level up. Instead, once you collect a Trophy, a behind-the-scene computation takes place, adding an unknown quantity of experience to your total. I can see Trophy collecting going in waves, as you are approaching your next experience level, the drive to collect increases. Once you obtain your next level, your incentive drops, and it's time to take it easy for a little while. Overall, one can argue the PS3 Trophy level-up is a key differentiating factor that makes Trophies more appealing than Achievements.
Reason #3: Greater Incentive For Completion
Another key advantage Trophies have over Achievements is the motivation Sony has given us to collect all Trophies in each game. Once a player has collected 100% of the bronze, silver and gold Trophies in a game, the player is rewarded with an additional Trophy - the highly sought after platinum. This special, symbolic Trophy indicates you have achieved the highest level of mastery in the game and are a true completionist gamer. As an additional incentive to achieve 100% completion, the platinum Trophies add a much larger amount of experience points (in comparison to bronze, silver or gold) to your PSN gamer level. This will give serious gamers that added experience boost needed to gain levels fast and really differentiate themselves from low-level gamers.
Reason #4: Retroactive Trophy Support
It's no surprise that the Playstation 3 had a rough start with low hardware sales due to it's hefty $599 initial price tag. But in the last nine months the Playstation 3's fortune has reversed, with both console and software sales increasing dramatically year-over-year. To help feed the console's momentum, Sony has announced that a number of previously released first party PS3 games will be retro-fitted with Trophies, including Super Stardust HD, Warhawk, and PAIN. A few other previously released PS3 titles (e.g. Uncharted, Burnout Paradise, and Novastrike) should also be getting Trophy support down the road.
Since introducing Trophies, Super Stardust HD has enjoyed a massive revival and it's fair to say that following Trophy compatible games will attract a similar buzz. This gives a huge incentive for existing PS3 owners to dust off and replay shelved titles, as well as giving new PS3 owners an added boost to purchase the games. As we move into the busy fall season, Trophies will continue to steal momentum from Achievements as more games are retro-fitted and the hype for Trophies increases.
Reason #5: Playstation Home Integration
Sony may offer its most significant answer to the Xbox 360's Achievements once we see the launch of Playstation Home. The world of PlayStation Home will not only consist of players' houses, but reportedly it will also feature a Hall of Fame which will include a Trophy Room where users are able to display their gaming accomplishments. Sony has also announced that they are considering the possibility of only allowing the most prized accomplishments in your Trophy display, increasing the importance of collection those coveted gold and platinum Trophies. Playstation Home will give players a whole new way to interact and show off their prized collection, giving Trophies a much more tangible value than Achievements. Given that Playstation Home is still a work-in-progress (it's in private beta), details are still rolling in. Needless to say, the integration of Home is sure to be a huge differentiating factor a key reason why Trophies are better than Achievements.
In one swift move, Sony has set the bar high and now the true competition has begun. The question of whether or not Playstation Trophies will steal the thunder of Xbox 360's remains to be seen. One thing is certain though, with PS3 and Xbox 360 games nearly identical in graphics, control and sound, it's no longer acceptable to say "I'll get the 360 version, so I can get Achievements."