Microsoft is battling Xbox achievement spam games with new developer rules
The company is cracking down on Gamerscore-focused shovelware.
What you need to know
- Some developers publish "achievement spam" games on the Xbox Store that only take minutes to complete, with achievements that can be earned with little to no effort at all.
- Microsoft is cracking down on these games with new rules added to its Xbox game certification requirements.
- Moving forward, new Xbox games must have achievements that take more than a few minutes and require adequate player engagement to earn.
- Aabs Animals, a 2013 game recently released on Xbox in which players do nothing but stare at a cat and get achievements for it, is an example of the type of game Microsoft is taking a stand against.
Xbox's achievement system is a great feature that encourages players to try out and thoroughly play new games, but recently, there have been a rising number of "achievement spam" games on the Xbox Store that exploit it. These games are designed to be completed extremely quickly, and their Gamerscore achievements can be earned with little to no effort at all.
In an effort to stem the tide of these games and prevent them from flooding the marketplace, Microsoft has made a handful of additions to its certification requirements for new Xbox games (via TrueAchievements). Specifically, these new rules were added to the XR-055 Achievements and Gamerscore requirement, which can be read on pages 2661-62 of Microsoft's Game Development Kit documentation.
The changes begin with the following addition to XR-055's description: "Unlocking achievements in the base game or a content update must represent a thorough exploration of or engagement with game content." Essentially, this means that players have to actually accomplish something to get an achievement.
On top of this, the company has also added three new Fail Examples — conditions that will prevent a game from being certified if met — to the XR-055 listing. We've listed them below:
- All achievements can be unlocked within a few minutes of starting the game
- Achievements do not represent a thorough exploration of or engagement with game content
- Achievements can be unlocked without any (or minimal) user input unless required as part of the core gameplay loop
These new rules should prevent developers from releasing extremely short and low effort games, as they won't get certified if players can get every achievement in a few minutes or can acquire them without much input or engagement. Hopefully Microsoft enforces them effectively, as the last thing the Xbox Store needs is more shovelware for Gamerscore farming.
A notorious example of a game like this is Aabs Animals, a $10 2013 game recently released on Xbox in which players do nothing but stare at a cat and get achievements for doing so. Replying to fan complaints, ID@Xbox head Chris Charla said that Microsoft "will take a look" at the game back in late February.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.