Microsoft says it isn't working on the Xbox career system, but it should be


Achievements (Image credit: Windows Central)

In recent months, we've been covering the so-called Xbox "Career" system, which looked as though it would be rewarding players in ways beyond Gamerscore. Sadly, it doesn't look like it's on the way, but it should be!

At present, games for Xbox Live on Xbox One and Windows 10 reward players with points for achieving specific things in games, as defined by the developers of said games. You might earn 50 achievement points for completing a game, 20 for killing a specific monster, and so on – the triggers are limitless. The career system appeared to be far more dynamic, however, rewarding players with EXP and levels in ways that go far beyond the games themselves.

As recently as March 2018, it looked as though the Xbox Career system was in active development, with code commits to the Xbox and active subdomains. However, Xbox Platform VP Mike Ybarra said the career system is not in active development, while acknowledging the positive reactions.

Xbox "Career" subdomains we expected were in use to develop these systems.

Xbox "Career" subdomains we expected were in use to develop these systems.

If Microsoft is truly not working on the career system, here's why it really should.

Gamerscore isn't representative

Xbox achievements are not only hugely popular, they are one of Microsoft's key platform innovations in the industry. There are websites dedicated to Gamerscore (such as TrueAchievements) and YouTube channels (such as Maka91). Most users on Xbox Live have a few thousand Gamerscore, but there are people out there with over a million.

My buddy Rand has over a million Gamerscore.

The popularity of the Xbox achievement system has spawned various copycats, including PlayStation's trophy system, Steam's own achievement system, and Blizzard's in-game achievement systems. As for Xbox, the system has remained largely unchanged since its launch, which, as games have evolved, has become severely out of date.

While some achievements do reward player skill or time investment, you can rack up a high Gamerscore fairly quickly by focusing on games that are not only specifically easy to get points for, but are quite cheap to buy. Before the rise of indie titles via ID@Xbox, games with 1000 potential Gamerscore attached to them were usually of a premium price point before sales.

Sometimes you'll see gamers refer to a player's Gamerscore as indicative of their skill or dedication, but in a world of esports, and service-driven games that get perpetual updates, it has become increasingly common place for gamers to stick with a single title for several months, or longer. Gamerscore isn't kind to players who don't have the cash to splash on tons of games, or simply aren't interested in the achievement hunting metagame.

Reward all players

The Gamerscore leaderboard fosters friendly competition between achievement hunters.

The Gamerscore leaderboard fosters friendly competition between achievement hunters.

You could argue that the point of Gamerscore is to try and incentivize gamers to buy more games. There's certainly a monetary value attached to Gamerscore, where smaller games, such as those on Windows Phone, typically only offered around 200 Gamerscore.

The career system would have celebrated gamers of all types equally. Gamerscore doesn't do this.

The value of achievements has diminished in recent years, as indie titles flood Xbox One and Windows 10, gradually trivializing the accomplishment associated with Gamerscore.

Gamerscore doesn't need to be replaced – not at all. It's just that there are simply more ways to engage with Xbox Live than there was previously, and it's about time Microsoft allowed players to showcase their gamer cred in other ways.

We previously heard that Microsoft was planning to reward players with EXP, levels, and maybe even digital items such as Avatar props and clothes for engaging on Xbox Live in various ways. These systems would have sat alongside Xbox achievements, displaying a player level next to the Gamerscore figure on your profile card. Some of the code strings we saw rewarded EXP for things like time spent playing games, trying new games, sharing content on Xbox Live, and indeed, earning achievements.

I have no doubt that Microsoft was at some point working on these systems. Microsoft noted to us previously that it was looking into ways to reward players beyond Gamerscore exactly for the reasons outlined here.

Gamifying the behavioral data being harvested as you move across the Microsoft ecosystem would have been the perfect way to keep players invested in their time on Xbox Live, making positive contributions. Whether you buy hundreds of indie titles for quick achievements, spend hundreds of hours perfecting your PUBG skills, or actively stream and create content, the career system would have celebrated gamers of all types equally. Gamerscore doesn't do this.

Bring the career system to life

The career system would have been the perfect way to modernize and futureproof the gamification of Xbox Live, complimenting Xbox achievements instead of replacing them.

Whether the career system was simply a prototype that never made it, a side project that was never intended to be seen, a complete misinterpretation on my part, or some kind of elaborate hoax – I have no idea. What I do know is that it seems rather awesome. Even if we never get this particular system, the idea of showcasing different types of gamers beyond an individual's will to harvest achievement points is something worth exploring.

Is this something you'd like to see? Let us know in the comments.

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!