Xbox One TV achievements could reward (and manipulate) couch potatoes

In Microsoft's mind, even the simple act of watching television could be considered an “achievement.”

The company has applied for a patent that would reward TV viewers with achievement points, similar to the ones that are earned by playing Xbox games. The patent application was first spotted by Games Industry International.

“To increase interactive viewing and encourage a user to watch one or more particular items of video content, awards and achievements may be tied to those items of video content,” the application says. For instance, users could earn rewards for watching a particular event, such as the Super Bowl, or “performing a specific action” while watching a video.

Rewards wouldn't just be limited to points. Viewers could also earn clothing for their digital avatars, coupons or even actual products, the patent application says.

Although the patent doesn't mention any Xbox hardware by name, the associated drawings (as seen above) clearly show an Xbox-like console with a Kinect sensor perched above the television. Given Microsoft's emphasis on TV in the upcoming Xbox One, it's not crazy to think that achievements could be coming to video on the new console.

The dark side of achievements

Achievements are an addictive hook on the Xbox 360, encouraging players to accomplish certain goals within a game, and earn points toward a cumulative “Gamerscore.” In that sense, achievements are a fairly harmless way to make games a little more enjoyable (although some players have arguably taken it too far).

Achievement unlocked!

The danger with TV achievements is that they could directly manipulate users for commercial gain. The patent describes how achievements could be tied to advertising content, so “viewers may be encouraged to increase their viewership of the content, thus increasing advertising opportunities.” In other words, players would earn awards not by honing their gaming skills, but by watching ads.

This kind of manipulation could extend to gaming as well. Microsoft has already confirmed that the Xbox One will support cross-game achievements, so players may not be able to earn all available points on one game unless they buy another related game.

It's enough to make us yearn for a simpler time, when achievements were merely a way to acknowledge the player's skill, rather than a way to extract more value from users.

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