When it comes to gameplay hours, are some video games too long to beat?
When I spend money on a game — especially when I’m investing $60 for a new one — I play the game to death. Even the used ones that take 20+ hours like Dragon Age: Origins I play two or three times in a row before buying and playing a new game.
But this CNN article from 2011 states the startling statistic that as little as 10% of players actually beat a game. (I’m not sure I really buy that, but maybe…?) The article cites aging gamers (busy with careers and families), short attention spans, the popularity of multiplayer games and an increasing number of available games as possible reasons. The solution it suggests? Shorter games.
Personally, I dislike this idea. Shorter games means less bang for your buck, and possibly much less depth — my favorite thing about RPGs. Maybe RPGs will always be longer by nature, due to delving into a story with characters and giving the player a chance to develop his or her character.
Or maybe not. When Diablo 3 came out, people complained that they could beat the game in fewer than 10 hours and accused Blizzard of getting lazy. But maybe that’s the new trend. And maybe it’s more than a trend. I’m curious about vintage games, as I haven’t gotten into them yet. Are they much longer, or was there a lengthy game trend somewhere in the middle of gaming history…?
Whatever the case, I was surprised when the article stated that 30 hours is a long game, since I appreciate 30+ hours for most games and have heard people get excited about games that have upwards of 100 hours of gameplay (Final Fantasy series, Red Dead Redemption, Fallout, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim). When it comes to game length, I’ve always heard nothing but praise for more gameplay hours.
I suppose if games are going to get shorter, replay value is vital. I love games that are 20+ hours but still have lots of replay value (Mass Effect series) — and with that in mind, shorter games had better just ooze replay value. (Uncharted 3 is an example of how not to do it, IMO: It’s a blast the first time around but offers very few bonuses for single-player round two — and it can be beat in about 10 hours.) For many of the short games, multiplayer action extends the game time, but I can’t comment on that as I haven’t gotten into MP yet. Even so, I hate to think that people who exclusively play SP are at a disadvantage.
In fact, the best direction for linear RPGs to head in the future seems to be shorter games with lots of room for character development and choices that affect the game’s outcome. I prefer that idea to adding extra places to explore for the sake of more content and combat (and level grinding), though games like L.A. Noire and Batman: Arkham City are fun partly because it’s a blast to explore more of the world each time you play. And I have to argue that games should really be more than 10 hours, since I can easily sit down and play a game for three to four hours straight — that’s conservative to some gamers — and a game hardly feels worth the money if I can beat it in two sessions.
Of course, trading in games for new ones is a smart idea to save money — especially for short games that are a blast to play just once through — but I’m weird in that respect. I like having a shelf full of games I’ve played and loved, and it’s hard for me to part with them.