Study: Achievement-rich games sell better

Electronic Entertainment Design and Research has found titles that implement goals properly average significantly greater sales out of the retail gate.

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For developers of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles, focusing on achievements and trophies may not guarantee blockbuster hits. However, there's a strong correlation between games that sell well and games that offer numerous and diverse accomplishments, according to a new study from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research.

The more achievements, the merrier the shareholders.
The more achievements, the merrier the shareholders.

Looking at the first three months of US retail sales for all Xbox 360 games released through March of this year, EEDAR found that games with numerous achievements tended to move more copies. On average, games that included more than 30 achievements sold three times as many copies as those with 30 or fewer in-game goals. Developers are apparently picking up on the trend, as the first three months of 2008 saw more than 60 percent of Xbox 360 games released with more than 40 achievements, compared to 52 percent for all of 2007 and 42 percent for 2006.

"It's certainly not that the achievements are driving game sales," EEDAR director of research Shane Hebard-Massey told GameSpot. "Those dev teams are putting more work in to make a better experience for the gamer and that often carries through [to the rest of the game's development]."

The report also notes diversity of achievements as another strong correlate to sales success, echoing an EEDAR study from last year. The group sorted achievements into 16 different categories, ranging from completion tasks ("beat the game," for example) to community goals (upload a user video or share a custom-made level). Outside of the Xbox 360's 2005 holiday release window--when games with more varied achievements actually sold fewer copies over three months than their diversity-poor counterparts--there's a clear correlation.

As for Sony's PS3 trophies, the report acknowledges them, but suggests they might play out in a slightly different manner than their Xbox 360 counterparts.

"Almost every Xbox 360 user, no matter how casual, has earned an Achievement," Hebard-Massey wrote in the report. "By not exposing users to trophies with every game, Sony is missing out on exposing the more casual user base to this system. Additionally, Sony is also not catering to the hardcore crowd that just love earning accomplishments."

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