Systems Short: The Power of the Xbox One's Friends Leaderboard

The Xbox One's Friends Leaderboard is a powerful tool to help keep gamers playing. It is located in the Friends section of the Xbox One Dashboard (As of writing this on 6/19/15 I heard they will be making some changes to the dashboard in the coming months).  It works by tracking how much gamerscore you and your friends have earned over the course of the last 30 days and ranks you against them. (Side bar: players gain gamescore by earning achievements. Players earn achievements by doing specific tasks in games. An achievement can only be earned once.)

Here we can see Major Nelson is currently not doing so well at 11th place amongst his friends. It shows each player’s current gamerscore as well as how much it has changed in the last 30 days.

Leaderboards typically have an issue where eventually someone will score so high that it feels impossible for new players to catch up.  The timed leaderboard, which after some time, forces the scores back to 0 so players will have to come back to continue dominating the leaderboard. The 30-day achievement leaderboard is particularly clever. This is because in a normal timed leaderboard the players just need to keep playing the game to try to score higher. And every month the leaderboard resets. Sounds simple enough. But because there is an achievement/ gamerscore cap for every Xbox game, in order to continue dominating this leaderboard players will need to eventually buy new games. Thus helping to push sales. Because this is on the friends page, players are guaranteed to continually bump into it while navigating to the store or to see a list of which friends are currently online. (I know there are other ways to get to these pages without viewing the friends page but this is the most common route.)


I have condensed this system into a simple flow chart to help get the most important parts of the system down for better understanding. There are more parts to this but this is the basic flow. If there is some demand I can go into the finer details of how this system works. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Chart made in Lucidchart

Additional tension is created when the scores are updated. Like I said before typically timed leaderboards reset on a specific day for everyone. There is a universal reset. The way Xbox does it is it resets 30 days from when the player earned the specific achievement.

(Skip this paragraph if you hate math or word problems)

For example if I haven’t played my Xbox in over 30 days and I earned an achievement worth 100 GS (Gamerscore) on May 1st, I would have +100 GS on the leaderboard for May 1st. Lets say I earned an achievement on May 2nd worth 150 GS and then earned no more GS for the rest of the month. From May 2nd – May 30th I would have +250 GS but on May 31st I would only have +150 GS. This is because 30 days have past and the Achievement/ GS which I earned on the 1st no longer counts for the leaderboard.

This allows players to see their scores fall overtime and their friends more easily begin to dominate the leaderboard unless the player earns more achievements.

I find this system to be particularly clever and simple and I applaud whoever designed it because for the first few months even I didn’t put the pieces together. I was so focused on maintaining my dominance over my friends I didn’t think about how they are pushing me to buy more games.

And while it doesn’t bother me because I purchase ridiculous amounts of games I could see how this form of mental manipulation might bother some people.