Gamasutra's latest Question of the Week asked our esteemed audience of game industry professionals, educators and students for feedback on the importance of a game's play length, particularly in terms of monetary value. Specifically, inspired by a letter to Game Developer magazine by Zoe Nichols, we asked:
Q: How important is the length of a video game for you, as someone involved in the industry? Is there a particular 'hours per $ purchase price' that makes sense, or are there other sensible measures of replayability beyond simple linear mission modes? How should the game industry address this problem in the future?
An majority of our respondents chimed in with similar thoughts: mainly, that quality is more important than quantity, and that adults don't often have the time to play through epics.
On the following pages, we'll highlight a few of the more interesting responses received.
(Please note that the opinions of individual employees responding to the Question Of The Week may not represent those of their company.)
In opposition to the original letter, I own no consoles. While my personal PC is perfectly capable at running productivity apps, Photoshop, and even video editing, it can't keep up with today's shiny new games. I haven't played a commercial PC game since "Return to Castle Wolfenstein." Even then I only played it because it was a free title from work. Why don't I play games? It's not number of hours of game-play. It's the quality. I'd rather play clever games like Grow from Eyemaze or Facade than play any of today's crop of games. Pac-man. Donkey Kong. Tempest. Zaxxon. These games were all wildly different. Graphics aside, I'm hard pressed to find any qualitative difference between Quake and Doom III, despite their 6 year separation.
Who's to blame for this? I blame the industry for being too risk-averse and building customer expectations toward whiz-bang new graphics. And I blame the consumer for not demanding better. Occasionally, a new game will break through the homogenous genres: GTA3, for example. Unfortunately, many of the titles I've worked on since its release have aimed for the "open-city and sandbox feel." Even when it isn't appropriate. Where has all the innovation gone?
Carl Pinder, Treyarch
As a husband and father, homeowner, employee (lead game programmer), and game fan, as well as a person with additional non-videogame hobbies, I have to say that I prefer shorter games. Real life takes precedence over playing games, and I just don't have enough time to play games that last forever. I rarely can finish a game before the next hot game comes out. When a review talks about a game being "short", I personally add an extra point to the review score, as I know it'll be more likely that I can finish it.
I would prefer games to be shorter but have "expansions" much sooner, say six months after the initial release. This way, I can feel like I finished the game, and if I liked it, I can get more. "Expansions" don't need to be fully re-developed engines, and technology: just tweak the existing tech, add some of the features that didn't make it in time for the original, and add more content. Cost is not an issue: Rather than pay $60 for a 100 hour game, I'd gladly pay $40 for 10 hour game, and then another $30 for another 10 hours six months later. (And another $30/10 hours six months later again.) That's $100 for 30 hours of content, or more than 50% increase in price, for about 30% of the content. But I'd be more satisfied with the experience.