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Question Of The Week Discusses Game Length

Question Of The Week Discusses Game Length

November 27, 2006 | By Simon Carless

November 27, 2006 | By Simon Carless
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More: Console/PC

The "Question Of The Week" feature, our regular industry-related question for our readership, is asking for feedback on the ideal play length for today's video games, in response to a letter to Game Developer's editors from an aggrieved gamer.

The letter which sparked this debate, from Zoe Nichols, reads as follows:

"I'm a life-long gamer (since the NES), own several consoles (including the 360), and recently began PC, MMORPG play (WoW)--in other words, I have broad and varied experience gaming. Having said this, I am truly disappointed in what appears a general imbalance within the industry: There is a gross lack of attention given to play-length vs. the overwhelming energy/money devoted to innovative graphics and features.

I realize that the standards of both a game's appearance and its immersive quality are constantly increasing, and that these qualities are essential in a successful game. Yet it's extremely frustrating to have a game's cutting-edge standards come abruptly to an end after only 6 hours of play. I would rather be moderately impressed by a product's graphics for 24 hours of play-time, than to marvel at them for just a fraction of that length.

When I compare a game like Oblivion to Gears of War, I am hard-pressed to see why Bethesda ably produced almost limitless content; while Epic managed significantly less content in its mission-based play modes. I realize that each game comes from different genres, but the plain fact remains: One exploits the console's capability to accommodate enormous amounts of data, while one does not.

There is no excuse for this, not even the pressure of deadlines. The gaming world is infamous for postponed release dates, and nobody understands or accepts this better than the industry's consumers. I cannot speak for everyone, but for $70, I feel especially robbed when a game's spell breaks too soon."

Thus, the question, which can be answered at the official Question Of The Week page until December 1st, is:

"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?"

Responding professionals who live outside the U.S. are also welcome to reply with their plans (which will obviously be shaped by the availability of those consoles in their specific location) - please indicate where you live in your reply, if you wish to do so.

As with the previous questions, the best responses will be compiled into an article to be published on the site, and users can either respond publically, with their name and company specifically cited, or anonymize their answers if they wish.

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