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Since the launch of the Xbox 360, there has been a fairly prominent community of gamers dedicated to obtaining as many Achievement points as they can possibly get. While many of us have experienced our fair share of Achievement hunting, others have gone to the extremes.
Some have questioned the purpose of Achievement points. Internet forums and blogs have been littered with questions such as, “What is the point of Achievements?” and “Are Achievements a distraction to gaming?” since the feature was introduced with the Xbox 360 in 2005. While Achievement points may puzzle some, they have spawned a new way to play games. Many websites with large communities are dedicated to them, with users sharing tips and writing guides on how to unlock them.
For those who want the highest Achievement score possible, a common practice is to track down games from other regions than their own, which isn’t very easy to do. If you’re trying to get as many points as possible, you have to be creative by doing things out of the ordinary. Most gamers only have a single Xbox 360. Those looking for the most Achievement points have one for every region of the world so they can unlock them in Japanese and European games not available in their own country. Most people only own one version of any given game. Gamers looking to gain the maximum points possible will hunt down the U.S., Japanese, and European versions of a single game because of the separate Achievement sets for each region.
A typical game released in the United States has 1,000 Achievement points. But when the same game is released in another region, such as Japan or Europe, it sometimes carries a separate set of Achievements. That means if you unlock all 1,000 points in the U.S. version of the game, you can then play the same game again and get 1,000 more points in the Japanese version. A frequent tactic for Achievement hunters is to buy a U.S., PAL, and Japanese Xbox 360 console in order to play every game from every region. For example, the game Catherine has three sets: U.S., Japan, and Europe. Sometimes a specific country in Europe will get its own set. A title that has multiple sets is called a “stack-able” game.
In some instances, the Asian and Korean version of the game will be stack-able. In a unique case, the Russian PC version of BioShock 2 and Mafia 2 carry their own Achievement sets. The most stack-able game is Scene It? Bright Lights! Big Screen!, which has seven separate versions (North America, Europe, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, and Italy). Because players answer trivia questions, separate versions of the game were created with specific questions geared toward the respective countries it was released in. When interviewing a user of a popular Achievement tracking website, he informed me that he knew of several people who have owned multiple copies of Scene It?, and he knew of one individual who had owned down all seven versions of the game.
Tracking down versions from other regions can be tricky. It can mean navigating a foreign retailer’s website in a language you cannot understand. Or it can involve trying to fund an account from a different country. I saw one instance of a user calling up a store in China, asking the employee if he was certain the copy of the game the store carried was in fact the “Asian” version. Many Achievement hunters set up game exchanges. There are forum threads dedicated to trading games from player to player. One user informed me that his friend ordered games from the German version of Amazon, but because it didn’t ship to the U.S., he first had to ship them to New Zealand and then to the U.S.
I asked what the hardest game was to find — if there was one game that was the “holy grail.” He said, “I think the hardest game to find is the Chinese version of Every Party, which I do have. The AP version of Ninety-Nine Nights II has been one I have been having a lot of trouble locating. I knew of a place that had it, but they don’t carry it anymore.”
Unlocking Achievements in Xbox Live Arcade games is a different obstacle. Sure, if you live in the United States, you can easily purchase and download U.S. games. But what if you want to download an XBLA game that was released only in Korea or Japan? There are several barriers. Users on the website Xbox360acheivements.org have written guides on how to access foreign XBLA stores. These show you illustrations about how to navigate the official Xbox website to create Canadian, Europe, and Japanese accounts. Common phrases found in these instructions include “navigate here,” “select Japan as the country you live in,” “make sure you register this specific way or it won’t work,” and so on. It’s a very tricky process as Microsoft never intended or wanted people from the United States to make accounts in other regions. When an XBLA store blocks you from using its website because you have an American I.P. address, many gamers use a VPN to makes it appear as if they’re in another country.
Even when you use these elaborate techniques, you can still hit a roadblock. A top user from Xbox360acheivements.org informed that Korean downloadable games were impossible to get unless you actually lived in Korea. This is because in order to make a Korean Xbox Live account, you need to provide the Korean equivalent of a Social Security card. Microsoft has also been known to ban accounts.
Some people may not like or “get” Achievements, but it’s pretty clear that they’re here to stay. The experiment of requiring Achievements for every Xbox 360 game has been successful. Many wonder what will become of these points in the next generation of the Xbox. Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that people will continue to love Achievements.