Exclusive: A new Xbox achievement system with PS4-like 'medals' was pitched at a Microsoft hackathon

Windows Central | Jez Corden (@JezCorden)
(Image credit: Windows Central)

November saw Microsoft's annual Hackathon event, where groups of developers, designers, and innovators come together from across Microsoft to compete and invent new potential products and services within and adjacent to the Microsoft ecosystem. The winner of this year's Hackathon was an app that helps you provide tech support to a loved one remotely, in view of the all-too-familiar frustration one might experience while trying to help a less tech-savvy friend over the phone. 

Microsoft's Hackathon 2022 event saw more than 10,000 inventions compete for the grand prize, with more than 68,000 employees across the world taking part in what Microsoft describes as the "world's largest private hackathon." 

I recently had the opportunity to check out some of the hackathon projects for myself thanks to trusted sources, and a couple of the Xbox-oriented projects certainly caught my eye. One project included a "Windows Handheld Mode" shell for Windows 11, that converts the interface into something more suitable for gaming on a Steam Deck-sized handheld PC. There were also prototype streaming services pitched, which would reward viewers with Microsoft Points for watching live streams on Xbox while integrating Twitch or Patreon. Another idea included an "Xbox Inventory" system, which would allow you to collect and carry cosmetic in-game items between titles. My favorite project — and one that I think is sorely needed — is an extension of the existing Xbox achievements system, something the designers dubbed Xbox Achievements 3.0. 

Although it's unclear who was behind the project, a team of designers and developers at Microsoft joined forces during this year's Hackathon event to create a proof of concept for a so-called "Xbox Achievements 3.0." This system would sit alongside the existing Gamerscore system, awarding players with PlayStation-like bronze, silver, and gold trophies for various per-title and even system-level accomplishments. For example, in the video shared with us anonymously above, you can see a concept medal pop for playing 300 titles on Xbox Game Pass. 

The presentation also showcased how each medal count would be displayed beneath your profile on Xbox.com and on consoles, giving players another way to showcase their accomplishments across various activities on Xbox Live (which has since been renamed Xbox network, although nobody is going to call it that). 

In any case, this concept is tantalizing, despite the fact it most likely will never materialize into an actual product. It's reminiscent of some of the proposals for the canceled Xbox Careers system from yesteryear, as Microsoft acknowledged the fact that gamer's habits have changed. More and more players are sticking to a single service-oriented title for longer periods of time, rather than grazing across multiple titles. Xbox Game Pass' all-you-can-eat library keeps Xbox achievements afloat, though. Vampire Survivors offers mountains of 5G gamerscore achievements that pop at the end of every run, which represents a truly exemplary utilization of the aging system. However, many unscrupulous indie publishers have taken to releasing shovelware games that are designed entirely to grant 1000 gamerscore for doing practically nothing — a practice Sony PlayStation reportedly plans to ban, no less. 

According to our sources, Microsoft engineers proposed that their system would be able to detect which games had been completed per user, to award medals retroactively.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

In any case, the very fact developers are looking at this internally at Microsoft even in a hobbyist capacity suggests to me there's a growing spotlight on how little Xbox achievements have evolved, while competitors like PlayStation and Steam have developed and improved upon the systems Microsoft pioneered back in the day. Improving Xbox achievements was one of the top concerns Xbox fans shared with me during last year's big feedback survey I conducted, after all. 

I for one, hope we see something like these Xbox "Medals" materialize into a real product, someday.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!