What are Xbox achievements? A beginner's guide to Gamerscore

Heidi Nicholas - December 25th 2019

You might be picking up the Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S as your first-ever Xbox console, or else investing in an older Xbox One for your first foray into the world of Xbox. Either way, if you're new to all this and you've successfully set up your Microsoft account and Xbox gamertag, you might be wondering why there's a "0G" next to your gamertag on your profile. Heck, it might say something like 35G, or 1000G, if you already set up an Xbox account through playing Minecraft on your Switch – or Microsoft Solitaire Collection while no one was looking at work. This magic number is your Gamerscore, which you earn by unlocking Xbox achievements. It's the core metric of the Xbox community's meta-game, and it's also the reason this site exists.

This guide is part of a series aimed at first time Xbox owners. TrueAchievements is the largest Xbox community site on the internet, allowing players to track their gaming achievements, discuss strategies and compete in contests and leaderboards. Once you have set yourself up on Xbox, you can register with us for free using your gamertag.

What is an Xbox achievement, and what is Gamerscore?

Put simply, an Xbox achievement is an indicator that you have completed a specific action, or series of actions, while playing an Xbox game. Microsoft has a rule: there has to be a list of achievements attached to any game in its final release on an Xbox platform (as opposed to a Beta or Game Preview early access release). Since Microsoft has started expanding onto PC and mobile, most games that use Xbox Live as a way to sign in and get online also have achievements lists. In recent years it has typically been mandatory for an achievement list's Gamerscore value to add up to 1000 Gamerscore in total – at least, it should before you start including downloadable content or free game updates, both of which can also add new achievements with additional Gamerscore value.

If you are signed in to Xbox Live and you meet the requirements for an achievement, you will get a notification. That achievement is now permanently "unlocked" on your profile. On Xbox, it'll appear as an expanding pill-shaped box, usually at the bottom of the screen and coloured with whatever colour you've picked for your dashboard. You will see the name of the achievement, the Gamerscore and the description provided by the publisher, along with a tantalising tinkly sound if you unlock a rare one.

When you unlock an achievement, you earn Gamerscore. The most common Gamerscore values are 5, 10, 15, 20, 50 and 100, but publishers can assign whatever Gamerscore they want – as long as, these days, the main list excluding DLC adds up to 1000G overall.

Microsoft totals up your overall Gamerscore and displays it under your gamertag in a number of places – on your friends list, on your Xbox Companion app on PC, on your smartphone app, and on your dashboard.

What does Gamerscore do?

Xbox achievements and Gamerscore are mainly there to give you a record of your gaming achievements to share with your friends – there is no direct use for Gamerscore except bragging rights. However, Microsoft has started up Xbox Game Pass Quests, if you are subscribed to the service (here's our guide to Xbox Game Pass if you want to know more). You can earn Microsoft Rewards points by completing Xbox Game Pass Quests, the majority of which are related to unlocking one or more achievements in specific Xbox Game Pass games. These reward points can be redeemed against future months of Xbox Game Pass or Xbox Live Gold, other e-vouchers, sweepstakes entries or donations to selected charities.

What does the diamond mean, when I unlock certain achievements?

Some achievements are considered "Rare" by Microsoft– this is if fewer than 10% of that game's owners in the Xbox ecosystem have unlocked the achievement. You can see the Diamond symbol next to achievements on our site too – we pick up whether or not Microsoft thinks an achievement is rare, though we have our own way of defining rarity. More on that later.

Where can I see the achievements for the game I'm currently playing?

While playing a game on Xbox, you can see the achievements for that game by hitting the guide button (the Xbox logo) on your controller. Tab over to the controller icon to see the achievements for your current game in progress.

From there, you can see your "Locked" achievements (ones you have yet to complete for the game) or your "Unlocked" achievements (ones you have already completed). You can select individual achievements to see the related achievement image a little larger, plus get a more detailed view of the achievement's stats.

If you have our TrueAchievements app installed, you'll even see a search icon on this achievement page, which will take you straight to any available solutions submitted by the community for that achievement. Neat!

What is the bar filling up under some of my locked achievements?

Some developers make use of Xbox's achievement progression feature. Let's say an achievement requires you to smash all the boards in Forza Horizon 3 or discover 17 different biomes in Minecraft. If you make progress in that achievement, the achievement panel in your guide will show how far you've gotten. You can select the achievement itself for more details. Sadly not every developer makes use of this tool, so for some cumulative requirements you might just have to keep your own count or keep repeating the task and hope for the best.

How can I delete achievements from my gamer profile?

Sorry, you can't delete achievements from your record. Your Gamerscore is a permanent record of your achievement hunting history, so unless you're planning on removing your Microsoft account entirely, those achievements are there to stay.

Some of our achievement-hunting faithful aim to retain a high or total completion percentage on their record – in other words, they have unlocked most or all achievements in every game that they have played. For this reason we monitor achievements that are broken - "unobtainable" - or no longer available - "discontinued" so that these players know which games to avoid starting altogether.

I have met the requirements for an achievement but it hasn't unlocked. What do I do?

It may just be that the game itself or Xbox's servers are slow to respond – give it a few minutes and see if the achievement pop appears. Sometimes, an achievement will pop without the notification appearing over the top of your game in progress – so hit the Xbox Guide button and tab to the controller icon. Open up the list for the game in progress and switch the view from Locked to Unlocked – you will see a list of everything you have unlocked in the current game. If you have an account with us, you can click on your profile picture in the top corner and click on the looping arrows next to your gamertag – this will kick off a scan of your profile in our servers, picking up any recent achievements you may have unlocked. That menu will refresh with your latest unlock if we've picked up any new ones.

If it really looks like the achievement hasn't unlocked and it's been a while, it might be unobtainable. Your best bet is to search for the achievement directly on our website, using the search feature in the top right of any page. You can either look up the game and see the whole list, or type in the name of the achievement itself to head straight to that specific achievement. As you can see with the Box in a China Shop in Unbox: Newbie's Adventure, if an achievement is unobtainable there will be a little yellow warning flag.

If you think an achievement is unobtainable and it hasn't been flagged, you can contact our hard-working volunteer Game Information team who will attempt to verify and decide whether the achievement needs to be flagged up.

How can I compare my Gamerscore with friends? Can I compete with them?

You can compare your achievements with your friends directly on the console. Press the Xbox Guide button and scroll to the friends tab, then down to Gamerscore leaderboard.

Xbox ranks everyone in your friends list on their Gamerscore with a rolling month tally. You will see your avatar or gamerpic in the center, with the person ahead of you to the left and the person just behind you to the right – you'll see everyone's rolling Gamerscore gain for the month represented by a plus (e.g. +5675 means you have added 5675 Gamerscore to your total in the last rolling month). If you tab down to Gamerscore Leaderboard on the left, you can see the full ranking of all of your Xbox friends, with gold silver and bronze awards going to the top three places. You can look at the historic leaderboard among your friends too – press on the current month at the top of the leaderboard and you can select previous months from the list.

Naturally, as soon as you start noticing your friends' scores, you're going to get jealous and want to improve your own. We've got a handy guide to getting the highest Gamerscore among your friends, designed to help out the total beginner.

So where does TrueAchievements come in? What's the TA Score all about?

In theory, a game developer assigns Gamerscore to an achievement based on the difficulty of unlocking it. In an ideal world, you'd get 100G for reaching a major game milestone or doing something impressive, and earn 5G for something relatively simple. However, there are no strict rules for this implementation, so it's not remotely an accurate depiction of difficulty.

Even if a developer sets out to score achievements according to difficulty, they can only assign these values once. Gamerscore is a static value. Yet as games are patched, guides are written, strategies are discussed, the relative difficulty of an achievement can vary over time. Xbox runs leaderboards between friends based on how much Gamerscore they have unlocked, but with this much randomness and variability in earning Gamerscore, how can it accurately represent how hard a player has worked for an achievement?

That's where we come in.

TrueAchievements was created in 2008 as a way of more accurately measuring players' success in unlocking achievements, reconfiguring the Gamerscore into a value called TA Score (TrueAchievements Score). TA Score compares how many people have an achievement compared to how many people have played a game. This ratio is multiplied by the original Gamerscore value of the achievement to get the TA Score. Over time this score will change based on the player count and how many of those players manage to unlock the achievement. We add up all of your TA Scores for each achievement you unlock, and that gives you your total TrueAchievements Score – which we also display all over the place on the site if you are registered and logged in.

We recognise that even our more accurate approximation of rarity still doesn't definitively declare an achievement's rarity – some achievements are rare because they are broken, or because online matchmaking is poor. Sometimes an achievement is easier to unlock for those willing to pay for microtransactions (shudder). However, on the whole, we feel our TA Score is a pretty accurate way to measure your Xbox achievement hunting career – which is how we've become the biggest Xbox community site on the planet, with our members competing in leaderboards, setting up personal gamerscore goals and taking part in site-wide achievement contests.

How can I use TrueAchievements to compete with my friends in achievement hunting?

First off, if you're not signed up with us already, you can register here, for free, in just a couple of clicks. If you register with your Xbox account, you can import any friends from your list that are already registered on site – if they're not here yet, send them the register link above after you've registered and they will be able to add you!

Once you're signed in, you can go to your Gamer Menu by clicking on your gamerpic in the top right corner of any page. Click on the second tab to see all of your friends, their TA Score and their online status.

If you head back to the first tab and click on your gamertag, you will end up on your personalised home page. One of the panels on the page shows you your entire friends list, and you can sort it by their TA Score. If you want to take on one of your friends head to head in a race to a Gamerscore total, or to a particular achievement or game completion, you can create achievement hunting goals and choose who you intend to beat. You can also create your own custom leaderboard – not only can you choose who to invite, but you can choose what everyone is scored by – achievements won, Gamerscore, TA score, whatever you like!

That's just a few of the ways you can use TrueAchievements to your advantage in making achievement hunting fun. We've rounded up a few ways to make achievement hunting fun with TrueAchievements, as well as a few useful TrueAchievements features that you may not know about. Be sure to check them out, and sign up to TA for free to try them for yourselves!