I immediately thought of achievements after reading your endgame vs flavour game post, and I can’t really figure out where they fit. Achievements in endgame style games just adds more endgame or gives you a little online acknowledgement for doing something you probably would’ve accomplished anyways because of how replayable endgames are. Then I thought about flavour games. On first glance, achievements seemed like a way to add the option of endgame and replayability to games that otherwise wouldn’t have much of it. But then thinking about what I’ve seen and heard from friends of mine who are into achievements, it seems to reinforce flavour games. I know one guy would replay his favourite games multiple times (this may just have something to do with being a teenager at the time) but now he buys a game, gets all the achievements and trophies to display on his gamertag, then never touches it again. You can’t delete achievements either, so if you want to replay them, you have to go through the hassle of creating an entirely new gamertag, and since half the point of achievements is to raise your own score to show off to your friends, it feels almost like work to re-do something you’ve already done, not to mention an annoyance if you want all your friends connected to the new account. It also seems like there are those who won’t even play a game unless it has achievements so they can “work towards something.”
I bring this up to you because Wii U will end up having an achievement system of some kind (though whether the Nintendo Network fully integrates them with your Miis and/or Nintendo IPs is wait-and-see) and we’re bound to see the same kinds of behaviours coming out in people who may buy the Wii U but otherwise don’t play with the other consoles (if they’ll even exist, I’m not convinced the Wii audience is gonna show up in droves for the Wii U so maybe it’ll just be the regular gamer crowd who are already into this stuff). Imagine getting achievements on a game like Wii Fit U, and then after “getting them all” not wanting to continue because you’re “finished” with the game. May not be that big of a deal after all, but it’s something I’m interested in watching.
Endgame is what you can do with the game once you have finished it. And this is a good question to ask with your favorite games: “What do I do with it now that I have finished it?”
With games like Pac-Man, it is easy. You played again and again trying to get a higher score. Arcade games revolved around score. In some games like Gauntlet or R-Type, it revolved around progress such as how many levels can I do?
With games like Mega Man, there were many different ways to play the game. What if you used the Leaf Shield instead of overpowering everything with the Metal Blade? Super Mario Brothers 2 had different characters you can choose that made each level interesting to play through again.
Super Mario Brothers 3 had too much stuff. Not only was there so much in the levels that could be explored, you could skip stages. You were constantly given a choice between something like 6-5 or 6-6. Beating either of them would lead you to 6-7. Or in the last stage with those Hands-Grabbing-You-Over-The-Lava. If you were lucky, you could just zip on by and never experience those wickedly cool stages. You also had a toolbox full of items. What if you used a Hammer Brothers Suit during the tank stage? What if you used the P-Wing on this stage instead of that stage?
I prefer the word ‘Endgame’ as opposed to the word ‘replayability’. Replayability makes game developers do things like ‘alternate endings’ and loopy grinds. Endgame means how do I play the game once I have beaten it and mastered the mechanics?
The term Endgame is used most often in MMOs such as World of Warcraft. Endgame refers to once a player is max level. What do you do in a RPG once you are max level? That is the Endgame.
Achievements are something to do, but they don’t constitute the Endgame. Achievements are like golden stars placed on abnormal things you do in the game. Actual Endgame is about using the core gameplay normally even though you have ‘beaten’ the game.
What is the Endgame of Wrecking Crew (aside from score)? You can make your own levels! There is more stuff to do. Thank the Gaming Gods that Lode Runner had a level editor. It gave the game so much value because of it.
Smash Brothers and Mario Kart are Nintendo’s franchises that have the best Endgame. You can keep playing the games over and over. This gives the game a high value which is why people wish to purchase them.
The reason why the Endgame keeps disappearing from established franchises is because of the heavy emphasis on first time players and how people start the game. There seems to be little concern to what the consumer does with the game once they beat it.
But they should be concerned! Oh yes. If the game has an Endgame, then the player won’t go to the Used Game Store and sell the game. The lack of an Endgame hurts sales more than a high learning curve does.