Microsoft introduced Gamerscore into the world fifteen years ago with the launch of the XBox 360. The rules fluctuated a bit over the first eight years, but there was a consistent framework that kept a level playing field in the quest for an ever-higher Gamerscore. XBLA games and eventually Windows Phone games were about half the length of retail games, yet only a fifth of the Gamerscore, capping out at 200G before seeing the XBLA games climb to 400G in 2012. Retail games of course were worth 1000G.
A typical game clocked in around 15-20 hours. Games under 10 hours were prized for their value, and games under 5 hours were rare treats. We didn't care how bad Jumper: Griffin's Story
was when it allowed us to increase our Gamerscore by a thousand points in one afternoon!
I often participated in 360Voice month long Gamerscore challenges. Hundreds of people would enter and one or two would go all out, foregoing sleep, and somehow, some way, cracking 30,000 Gamerscore in a month. This of course was done with physical discs, possibly the 4-games-at-a-time Gamefly subscription, friends mailing games, and plenty of trips to Gamestop and the local video store. We all knew that these gamers were grinding it out, hunting deer all day long in a Cabela's game or navigating through an entire Pixar game long past sundown.
Fast-forward to 2019 and 30,000 Gamerscore in a month can happen without breaking a sweat.
What changed? How devalued is Gamerscore in 2020? I did a little experiment to find out.
I created an imaginary gamer. This gamer is filthy rich and can play any game from anywhere in the world. But he only wants Gamerscore. And he is willing to play four hours every day for an entire year. Surely after a full year he will have earned our respect in the community. Let's send him back now to 2005.
He won't have long to play since he just got his system at launch in November, but owning every game he can race through NHL 2K6, NBA 2K6, FIFA, NBA Live, and Madden. He will slow down a little for King Kong and Hardwood Backgammon, and then churn through Amped, Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, Need for Speed, and Gun. All told he is able to get 11,200
Gamerscore by the end of 2005. That is likely top 10 in the world considering everyone was still figuring out what to play back then.
On January 1st, 2006 we create a brand new gamertag and now we have a full year, a whole 1,460 hours of gaming to climb the Gamerscore leaderboards. Of course there are the 2K6 sports games to play, XBLA games like New Rally-X, Galaga, and Dig Dug, but by the end of the year we are playing 40 and 50 hour games like The Outfit, Call of Duty 3, and Burnout Revenge trying to squeeze points. Our total for the year: 64,255
We repeat the process on January 1st, 2007, starting again with zero points. It is back to the 2K6 sports games, but now we have Avatar, and we will hang on to this game forever. We have a lot more options this year with games like Fusion Frenzy 2, TMNT, Surf's Up, Eragon, and Clive Barker's Jericho. Yet by the end of the year we are still playing 30 hour games like Enchanted Arms and WWE Smackdown. We finish the year at 98,105
2008 brings us Fallout 3 PC and a Japanese XBox for games like Idolmaster and Clannad. We dig deep and play through My Horse and Me 2, Disney Sing It, and Space Chimps. Yet we are still playing 20 hour games like Turning Point and Viking: Battle for Asgard. 125,745
We start yet another new gamertag in 2009 and we get another hefty amount of easy games like Backyard Football '10, Memories Off 6, and Night at the Museum 2. But by the end of the year we are still pouring 20 hours into Superman Returns to finish at 153,395
The next five years things really steady out. Yes, there are a handful of easy games each year to enjoy, but the total Gamerscore never increases over the previous year by more than 12%.
By the end of 2014 we do not have to play any game longer than ten hours, but we at least have to work through Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and we get to curve bullets for ten hours in 2009's Wanted: Weapons of Fate.
You can't see it yet, but the biggest change happened at the end of 2013 with the release of the XBox One. The 200G cap on indie games, that became 400G, has now become 1000G. When Dash of Destruction launched in 2008 as the winner of a Doritos contest, and we all completed the 200G in twenty minutes, it was a cute aberration. It was a one-off. Just imagine if it was worth 1000G. And just imagine if there were games like it releasing every week. That is where our numbers are headed.
2015 saw the first hint of this change. Quiplash and Clash could be completed in under an hour. Games like IDARB, 6180 the Moon, and Scrabble were under two hours. By the end of the year there are still a few 10 hour games to work through, but our score has jumped 16% to 254,050
. By using every easy game from an entire decade we have cracked a quarter of a million gamerscore in a year.
2016 sees an 18% increase thanks to Cubot, Mr. Pumpkin Adventure, The Park, Energy Cycle, Ben-Hur, and NBA 2K17: The Prelude. Gamerscore is easing more and more and now the most effort needed are 8 hour games like CSI: Fatal Conspiracy and Fibbage. We finish the year at 300,400
2017 brings us ACA NEOGEO and there is no going back. Yes, we are still playing 2006's Open Season for nearly 8 hours at the end of the year, but we have now crossed the point where we are averaging more than 1,000 gamerscore every single day. 387,400
2018 doubles down with the Windows 10 stacks of ACA NEOGEO and also brings us Ratalaika Games and other shovelware seemingly designed specifically for achievement hunters. We have now broken half a million gamerscore in under a year. 518,400
2019 was more of the floodgate from 2017 and 2018 spilling out. NEOGEO sludge continued to spew everywhere, and we were treated to delights such as Tanky Tanks and Football Game. Our imaginary gamer put up 1,744 Gamerscore per day to finish at 636,450
. The longest games played all year, Glass Masquerade and Lost Artifacts: Soul Stone, were under five hours!
Here is the increase visually:
What do I take from this? First of all, it seems that the trajectory will continue to be crazy. There is still plenty of room to get to the point where we eventually have 1,000 games that can be completed in under a year. Every five easy games that come out in 2020 knocks another five hour game off the list and greatly increases the available score to a new gamertag.
My other takeaway is that we need to adjust our comparisons. And for this I will introduce a new statistic. When Stallion83
became the first player to reach 1 million gamerscore in 2014, our all-out imaginary gamer would have earned about 214K using all the available games. In other words, Stallion's milestone was worth roughly 56 times what a new gamer could put up in a month. To turn this into a stat, a Supermonth in May 2014 is worth 17,833 Gamerscore (1/12th the annual score). A gamer today with a million gamerscore only has 19 Supermonths (53,037 Gamerscore at the end of 2019)
For another example, take JB330
, an old 360Voice friend who competed quite strongly in all of our gamerscore competitions on XBox 360. His 367,000 Gamerscore looks like 7 Supermonths. But bear in mind that in 2013 he had 330,000 Gamerscore. And with 2013 Supermonth = 17,420, JB330 was a 19 Supermonth gamer. If he had kept up his pace he could have a million gamerscore.
For myself, I have slacked a bit this generation. I am ranked 131st on the 360 leaderboard and only 702nd on the X1 leaderboard. Tellingly, my Supermonth rating has dropped from 24 at the end of 2013 to under 16 today.
But how about someone more consistent. My friend, Streak Leader
, as far as I can tell, never let up across generations. At the end of 2013 he had 320,000 Gamerscore, good for 18.4 Supermonths. At the end of 2019 he had 1,090,000 Gamerscore, good for 20.6 Supermonths. So he is actually stronger today than ever before.
If the ID@Xbox games would have forever stayed at 200 Gamerscore then the hundreds of sub-1-hour games available today would have been more palatable. But the quintupling of the value is leading to a quintupling of what it means to have a high Gamerscore. And if a high Gamerscore is important to you, well you better make sure it is closing in on a million if you don't want a noob to pass you up in a year.