UPlay, Ubisoft makes achievements matter

I finished Assassin's Creed 2 earlier this week and before I shut it off I decided to check out this UPlay thing that kept popping up while I played. When I first saw it come up, alongside an Xbox achievement, I figured they were Ubisoft's brand of achievements, meaning they were worthless. Just a way to keep track of my progress in Ubisoft games. That's partly true, but they're more than just progress markers and bragging rights.

Upon entering the UPlay network I was brought to a menu with three games to choose from: Assassin's Creed 2, RUSE, and Splinter Cell Conviction, the former being the only game available to purchase and play right now. Many of the menu selections were grayed out, with "coming soon" stamped across them, but the rewards section was open. There I was able to cash in my UPlay achievements (or whatever they call them) for actual, in-game rewards. I could buy a new costume for Ezio, extra throwing knifes, a Xbox Live theme, and the Auditore Tomb location (that last one was a preorder exclusive, so naturally I picked it up).

Since I had just finished the game I had more than enough points to buy all the rewards. I picked up everything but the extra knives, then went into the game and explored the new tomb, while wearing Altair's costume, and I didn't have to pay real money to do it.

This isn't really new to gaming. Games like Ratchet and Clank, Resident Evil, even Mario, have done it before; you unlock secrets by spending some type of game currency you earned from playing the game. The difference here is that Ubisoft's system is open to all their games. For example, I could purchase unlockable guns, and even a multiplayer mode (I was 10 points short on that one) for Splinter Cell Conviction, and that game won't be out for months. I'm not sure because I haven't tested it, but the points could be open to multiple platforms too, which would be great for someone like me that owns other systems. I didn't see any indication that my UPlay points can only be used on Xbox versions of Ubisoft games.

A year or two ago Microsoft, in partnership with Old Spice, ran an achievement point contest. If you got a certain number of points within a certain amount of time you'd get a free game. I didn't get mine fast enough for the grand prize, but I did get a free copy of Contra on Xbox Live Arcade. I was hoping something like that would become a regular feature, but I haven't seen anything since.

I would love if more developers did something like UPlay. Instead of preordering a game to get the extra tomb, I had to work for it, which was more rewarding than just purchasing it straight up. This also encourages people to play more of their Ubisoft games, so they can wring all the points out of them and keep them for goodies in other games. I'd like to see this go a step further, and maybe make downloadable content available for real money or UPlay points. You could pay $5 real money, or you could spend 5000 points (most things are priced below 100 right now, I figured a high point price would make sense).

Ubisoft is off to a good start with the UPlay system. I wouldn't be nearly as enthusiastic about it if the things you unlocked were just concept art and character bios. Don't get me wrong, I love looking at concept art, but that stuff doesn't change my game. These rewards actually useful added to the game, gave it some replayability. Here's hoping they keep this up, and that Microsoft and other companies (EA, Activision) are taking note.