The End of Stackable Achievements? Phil Spencer Calls for a Play Anywhere Future

By Sean Carey,
Upcoming Xbox Game Studios games will aim to support Xbox Play Anywhere across all Xbox platforms, Phil Spencer has confirmed in an interview with Stevivor. Xbox Play Anywhere functions such as cross-play, cross-buy, cross-saves and achievements will all be supported by Xbox Game Studio titles across Xbox One, Windows and Project Scarlett. Phil would like to see more third-party publishers follow suit, which could spell the end for the stackable achievement list.

Phil Spencer

For those that don't know what we mean by "stackable", it's a term in achievement hunting circles which refers to the fact that there are two or more distinct achievement lists for the same game on different platforms. On the down side, that means purchasing the game twice if you want the achievements on more than one platform; on the plus side, it'll be a lot easier to unlock all the achievements quickly in a game you are familiar with. In some rare cases progression carries over across distinct versions of a game, so players could end up in situations where they just boot up a new or alternative version of a game and see their hard-earned achievements pop immediately. "Stackable" achievement lists don't just appear cross-generation or cross-platform; many publishers also choose to create a Game of the Year Edition of a game distinct from the original, sometimes leading to a separate Game of the Year Edition list – as we've seen from the likes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Some IPs already under the Xbox Game Studios banner have stackable achievement lists, though Minecraft, The Outer Worlds and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice all have complex licensing situations where publishing commitments were made before Xbox took over – likely the main reason the stackable lists remain.

There was still the ghost of a question as to whether Project Scarlett games would share progression (including achievements) with the game's equivalent on Xbox. Stevivor put the question to Spencer, thinking specifically of games like Halo: Infinite. Spencer said: "Our goal for our first-party games is that your entitlements will be cross-generation and your Achievements will move effectively with your save game because that’s where they stand.”

Spencer also added that he hopes third party developers and publishers will follow Microsoft's lead with the cross-gen, Play Anywhere approach – which really would spell the end of the stackable list: “We think it’s a good thing that third-party games allow more players to play their games, but it’s relationships with their parties. They own their content.” In Spencer's opinion, it's a good thing if "your players can play [a] game in the different places they want to play it, and remain with their [save] state and everything."

Spencer also said that Microsoft aims to make the transition period between Xbox One and Project Scarlett smoother and more consumer-friendly: “We talked about how important digital was going to be this generation, and yet we didn’t move the digital purchases that you’d made on 360 seamlessly over to Xbox One. I always thought that was a miss.”

“When we did back compat, one of the things the team really focused on was you don’t have to re-buy the games,” Spencer said. “In fact, when back compat started working, it was cool because just in your collection the 360 games would start showing up because you have the digital entitlement there. That’s the [Xbox] team just doing really good customer-centered work, and I want us to continue like that.”

Not many games support separate achievement lists across differing platforms these days, especially in the case of Xbox Game Studios titles. It tends to be third-party games that have these stackable lists and practicality-wise it's probably easier to take the Play Anywhere approach of having a single game file save and store it in the cloud for use across different platforms. It's certainly easier to maintain one achievement list rather than two, and publishers would likely find it easier to track performance, gameplay and sales metrics from just one universal edition of a game.

Source: Stevivor
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Hey everyone! I'm Sean. I have been writing gaming content for various outlets over the past few years while studying a degree in Journalism. I grew up on everything PlayStation — mainly Metal Gear Solid, with a brief foray into the world of Xbox. Nowadays, you'll find me mainly playing multiplayer PC games, but with the recent addition of the Xbox Game Pass for PC, I'm looking forward to improving my TA Score.