Trophy Theory: Purchasing Trophies in NieR: Automata

March 8, 2017Written by Chandler Wood

Last week my first Trophy Theory column published, and from the moment I first proposed the idea, I’ve been pondering about writing a recurring trophy narrative without overly repeating myself or the column becoming boring. I’ve got a slew of ideas (thanks to those of you that have written to me. I’ll get to those ideas soon), but where do I go next? Are there building blocks that need to be set up to tackle future subjects, or can we jump right into the deep end? As I deliberated over which aspect of PlayStation trophies to visit next, NieR: Automata dropped this one right in my lap.

There’s no delicate way to say this, so let’s just get it out there: NieR: Automata lets players purchase trophies using in-game money, instead of legitimately unlocking them (except that purchasing them is fundamentally part of the game, so is it technically a false unlock if the game itself is designed to allow you to do that very thing?). Unconventional as this intended feature may be, it’s baked into the game design, and is causing quite a stir among gamers. From trophy hunters to those that couldn’t care less about them, it seems everyone has something to say.

Let’s do a bit of housekeeping before I get to flinging my own opinion around, and then play Devil’s advocate to myself and argue the other side. I am only talking about in-game currency. Paying to override the unlock criteria for trophies with real world money would just be wrong (albeit a hilariously meta real world lesson about the true value of wealth. Sad). You need to have beaten the game three times. At around 25 hours for a first playthrough, the time investment is clearly already there, so this isn’t allowing people to just quick grind and bypass all of the trophies. There’s still dedication to the game involved.

Record of Accomplishments

Trophies are more than just a number. They are a record of accomplishments. They chronicle how I have spent my time gaming, and the things that I have done. This is why I’ll never purchase a game like Hannah Montana just for some quick and easy trophies to pad my numbers, but if I get into talking about that too much here, what will I talk about in a future Trophy Theory? The point is that each trophy unlocked highlights certain skills and feats completed in games.

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By being able to purchase trophies, doesn’t that defeat the very purpose? I’ve looked over NieR: Automata’s list, and it doesn’t seem too hard, but if I have the trophy unlocked for something like riding an animal for five kilometers, either I have actually done that, or I’ve saved up the cash to purchase it. If something is so much of a grind or a high difficulty that players may opt to purchase it instead, at that point why bother even making a trophy for it? The NieR: Automata trophy list is no longer a record of your specific accomplishments. It’s just a testament that you played the game a lot.

If they want to hand someone a Platinum, they ought to just make story trophies and something that says “Play for 75 hours” or “Earn X amount of gold.” Why bother tasking players with anything else, particularly when many people are already surmising that you can just backup your save, unlock a few trophies, sync them, load previous save and repeat, which would save a ton of grinding time, as the most money you would need to earn is enough to buy the most expensive trophy unlock? It just seems a bit arbitrary, but then again, there are those out there who think that very thing of the entire trophy system, so what do I know?

Known Quantities

The trophy world already has some tough trophies with exploits that make them far easier. These known quantities are understood within the trophy community, and while an exploit or a later patch may frustrate players who feel they got it the “right” way (I totally did the Watch Dog’s drinking minigame before it got patched to be easier), it’s still generally accepted as the means to earn the trophy was present within the game without the need for outside hacks (or money, if things ever went down that road). Hell, even online trophy boosting is a major part of many trophy hunters’ routines. Who actually got 10,000 genuine kills in Resistance 2 multiplayer?

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Wouldn’t the fact that this is a known quantity for NieR: Automata make it entirely fair game for the trophy list? Every NieR: Automata player has access to the same methods, and this isn’t giving anyone an outside advantage like real world money would, so where’s the problem? Technically you could just add a parenthesis descriptor to each trophy saying something like “80% of all archives found (or purchased using X amount of gold after three playthroughs).” Suddenly the option to purchase these trophies doesn’t seem so bad, just because the description of the accomplishment was updated to reflect what the accomplishment may be.

It seems I’m still at odds with whether I agree with this decision or not. At face value, I don’t. But knowing the deeper trolling, meta nature of the original NieR, some of this makes a bit of sense. I mean, the first game did make you watch as your actual save file was brutally deleted at the end, showing you everything you’ve done to that point vanish into the ether piece by piece. This could be something else like that; a talking point that ties into how NieR plays itself out into the real world.

What do you think? Is NieR: Automata implementing its purchasable trophy unlocks well behind a gate of a lot of time and grinding? Or is it setting a bad precedent despite what it may be trying to do as a social commentary? I should add that NieR: Automata was reviewed very highly by us and is one to definitely check out if you are curious, despite its trophy controversy, which admittedly may be the very thing that the game’s director, Yoko Taro, was going for all along.

We’ve reached out to the NieR: Automata team for comment about this trophy decision and will update if we hear back.


I want Trophy Theory to be a conversation. This shouldn’t be me talking at you. It should be a discussion about trophies and everything that comes with it. I want your suggestions for what you want to talk about or see on Trophy Theory. Have a question for the Trophy community that you want to discuss? Throw your ideas into the comments below, email me, or tweet me. You may see your suggestion tailored into a future Trophy Theory.

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