The Nefarious Psychology of 360 Gamerscores

So I have to admit that when I first read this article it made me laugh. I could care less about my gamerscore. Of course… shortly after reading this article the thought did go through my head, I wonder what my score is at this point…

The Point of Kong
Washington Post
By Mike Musgrove
Thursday, February 16, 2006; D01

A recent King Kong video game available for the Xbox 360 doesn’t seem to be well loved among some owners of the new console – yet many of the game’s critics are admitting in online discussion groups that they rented and played it even though they knew in advance that they might not like it.

What gives?

Well, it turns out that the game, published by Ubisoft Entertainment SA and based off the recent Peter Jackson flick, has a reputation for coughing up an easy 1,000 points that Xbox 360 owners can add to their “gamerscore,” a number publicly attached to their online identities as a measure of their gaming “skillz” and dedication.

Taking the new Xbox onto the Internet has been more fun, in some cases, than the games themselves. And the perceived importance of gamerscore bragging rights among Xbox 360 owners online is just one example of the clever hooks Microsoft Corp. has thrown in to keep players’ hands wrapped around the new system’s controllers.

Players’ gamerscores ratchet ever upward as they unlock various “achievements” tucked away in the games in their collection. Each game that you can rent or purchase off the shelf at retail stores has about 1,000 points to dispense; downloadable arcade games for the Xbox 360, like the classic game Joust, have 200 points.

Having finished up playing the slick World War II game Call of Duty 2 on “normal” difficulty, for example, I unlocked 150 points for my Xbox 360 gamerscore. To get most of the remaining points, I’ll have to go back and play it again on the more difficult “veteran” setting.

Once upon a time, I would have put this game on the shelf and forgotten about it at this point, but now it bugs me knowing that I haven’t milked more out of the game. My gamerscore is at a grand total of 345, whereas many of the random strangers I’ve played online – in games like Quake 4 or the latest Tony Hawk-branded skateboarding title – have four digits to their name. It’s pathetic. It also has me tempted to give King Kong a second chance.

And it gets worse. If you’re away from the console, but at an Internet-connected computer, you can log on to and see how all your Xbox-360-owning friends are doing. You can see which of your Xbox-360-owning friends are playing right now and, yes, check out how far along they’ve gotten in the games in their collection.

In individual games, you can see both how well or poorly you’re doing against your friends as well as against all the other Xbox 360 players on planet Earth. In the new fighting game Dead or Alive 4, I’m ranked No. 103,685 out of 142,915 online players. I don’t even like the game that much – but somehow it’s fascinating to know that there are almost 40,000 people in the world who are worse at it than I am. And hey, there’s a long weekend coming up – I might even break into the top 100,000.

With the original Xbox, only one owner in 10 bothered to hook the thing up to the Internet. With the Xbox 360, over half of the owners have gone online – and even those who aren’t connected now can still rack up points and plug in later to show off their skillz. It doesn’t hurt that Microsoft made some online features free with the console; full, paid subscriptions cost about $8 per month, or less if you buy several months at a time.

Game console makers have been yakking for most of this century about making a device that will serve as a home’s Web-connected entertainment center, and Xbox 360 appears to have found some traction on that front. So far, Xbox 360 owners have downloaded 7 million pieces of games, music and movie content from the Xbox Live marketplace, according to Microsoft.

Most of those downloads were free, but about one-fifth of online players have made a purchase. Where owners of the original Xbox had to have a credit card to buy stuff online, you don’t for the Xbox 360. You can buy, for example, 1,600 points for $25 on a card available at Best Buy. (Don’t be confused: These are buying-stuff points, not gamerscore points.)

Plug in the code on the back of the card and suddenly you have some currency to spend online at Microsoft’s Xbox Love Marketplace. A typical downloadable arcade game, such as a new hit called Geometry Wars, costs 400 points.

You kind of have to admire Microsoft, though I’m a little wary of the monkey it is trying to put on my back. Features like the gamerscore and credit-card-free purchasing probably cost little to develop and implement, compared with the total expenses of developing a new game system – yet it’s already clear that they might turn out to be diabolically effective ways of getting players locked in during the running start the company has on Sony’s next console, due out later this year.

In the previous installment of the game console wars, gamers who were fans enough to own both a PlayStation 2 and an Xbox would frequently reach for the Xbox version of a game, because the graphics were regarded as slicker on Microsoft’s machine. This time around, players might reach for the Xbox 360 version – just to add points to their gamerscore.

That is, gamers might do that if they actually ever get their hands on the new console. Even after the console’s well-documented holiday shortages, the new Xbox is still hard to find –, for example, was reporting yesterday that it doesn’t have any in stock.


Most of the obsessives here at work are more fixated on achievements than the actual gamerscore.

That said, I have to admit to simulating 3 seasons in NBA Basketball just to get my gamerscore up into triple digits. :)

So last night, my first night with the 360, I stopped playing CoD2, the highest rated game on the 360 right now, to try to. . .

Get the “pacifist” achievement in Geometry Wars.

a) it’s damn hard for me so far

b) this is the first time I’ve ever been marketed to and not minded. The fact that I look at other people’s achievements and then pass by an ad for a game or a download, and not mind, is pretty amazing.

So far the only person I outrank on Geometry Wars on my friend’s list is Whitta.

Dammit, how do you guys break the 200K mark? I was tearing out my eyeballs trying to break 100K.

Two things.

  1. It is fantastic that Microsoft hit on a concept that allows straight competition to motivate game purchases and sales. I don’t know how it will continue as the number of games and opportunities for points expands.

  2. I was in the top ten worldwide Goldeneye players on XBox, the sheer weight of my title and crown nearly killed me. When I first cracked the top fifty, I was amazed at how easy it was to get women. Once I made the top twenty five, people started offering me drugs, wanting to be my friend and get close to me. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep up the scoring or reflexes as well as I could keep up with the fast cars and fast women. As my rank declined, I descended into madness and paranoia, accusing even my own mother of fabricating Christmas to pull me away from Xbox and lower my ranking. After I threatened my father with a knife, all I remember was being thrown out of my childhood home while shouting something about one hit kills. From there, it couldn’t get worse, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t continue to be a harrowing experience. My glitzy showbiz friends stopped returning my calls, and my real friends had long since lost my number because of what an asshole I had become. So, I started selling my gaming skills, I would join clans, kill a few people and raise their rank, using the money to buy coke and meth, so I could play longer. After a seventy-two hour cheetoh and white pony binge, I fragged my entire team on the temple map with a rocket launcher, and I guess you could say I kind of dried up the other opportunities by myself after that. From there I was living in garbage cans and shoving gameboy advance cartridges in my ass in gas station bathrooms with the guy from Three Dog Night. Then one day I read a Chick tract, and from there I knew my character was saved. I owe my salvation to Tom Chick and I know now that all my sins were brought on by the influence of Bruce. Hallelujah.

From the official XBox site:

(bold italic emphasis mine)

Why Game on the Go?
There are a million reasons why you would want to bring your profile and game saves with you. The obvious ones include:[ul]
[li]You just finished a game and unlocked some bonus content that you want to show to your buddy[/li]> [li]Your friend is on the fence about making the jump to Xbox Live Gold and you want to show him how awesome it is by temporarily moving your gamer profile to his Xbox 360 to show him.[/li]> [li]It’s summer vacation and you want to bring your game progress to your aunt’s summer home and play on her Xbox 360 instead of packing up your sweet gaming rig.[/li]> [li]Chicks dig Xbox 360 and you’ve been invited to a sorority mixer. Time to strut your stuff, cowboy![/ul][/li]
Oh, how the fantastic minds of the Xbox marketing department suits work. This is why the marketing department is the laughing stock of every company.

You go, cowboy.

Chicks dig Xbox 360 and you’ve been invited to a sorority mixer. Time to strut your stuff, cowboy!

Yeah, and the wife beat you over the head with your 360 when she found out!

Sony will pay shills to play on Live and call it the “catassery score”

I love the game score & achievements. It makes me play and enjoy games I buy to their fullest extent.

Actually I see a new market for IGE here. They will get high scores for you in return for a fee. Just the thing for those busy folks who don’t have time to play the games themselves.

The internal dialog is already starting…

“Hey Gun and THAW are cheaper on the old Xbox, and the 360 versions aren’t really any better than ports.”
“Yes, but playing them on anything other than the 360 means I won’t get credit for playing in my gamerscore.”
“Moron. You don’t even like Zuma and you were playing it until 1:30 am trying to suck a few more points out of it.”

Sony had better start thinking hard about what they’re going to do to motivate people to play multiplatform games on their system. Because all thinks being equal, folks will want the 360 points.

I’m Right there. I am interested in gun, The pc version is the right price and the 360 version is in my mind too expensive, but I don’t want to buy the pc version because of the gamer score.

Hell, I would of bought Empires at War but I’m hesitating because I can’t help but think my money and time would be better spent on 360 games that would improve my score.

I just want to take a moment to say how absolutely hilarious this was. Good work. And remind to never, ever borrow any gameboy advance cartridges from you ever.

Great article for gamerscore whores:

Fear my giant gamerscore!

ps- was that the entire freakin’ article from the post?

Yup. I’m a big believer that scroll wheels were invited for a reason.

Plus I found the whole article interesting.

Links work too, just sayin’…

Yeah… in retrospect, I probably should have excerpted.

(I’m ashamed to admit… and please don’t tell anyone else this… I don’t know how you guys put in links. Well, I know how you just cut and paste links, but I don’t know how what folks do make a single word a link. Like read full article HERE - and they make “HERE” a link.)

[ ] HERE .


It’s genius.

Damn them.

I use the BBCode Firefox extension. Never urk again, guaranteed!