Are Video Games Too Long?

So recently, a former Sony executive called for the return to the 12-15 hour game, citing the ability to finish more games, and a better discipline to editing – similar to a piece of literature or a movie. He also referenced the production costs of larger games and that continuing the rise in cost will adversely affect the industry as a whole.

And I agree, kind-of. To be honest, as a “gamer”, I really suck at finishing games. I’m guilty of always being on the hunt for a new game and losing interest in my back catalog. Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve completed a game front to back since we’ve had kids. Wow that’s crazy.

Now I see each and every game purchase as a small gamble. I’m exchanging money for entertainment, without knowing for sure if I will “get my money’s worth.” Moreso than other mediums, there are lots of games that I like that I will never pick up again, and feel like it wasn’t entirely necessary to purchase for the handful of times that I played it alone. Now a $60 gamble is a lot more than a $20 gamble, especially when that extra money comes with an estimated 30-40 hour commitment. Some games legitimately feel like work, and if you calculate what you make for a week of work, is that game’s value equal to that dollar amount?

This came more in focus after TLOU 2 was released, clocking in at 2-3 times the length of the original after six long years in development. I heard lots of people thinking that they were watching the ending but were only halfway through, and thinking the game had ended but then just kept going several times. Some didn’t mind this, while others thought it was tedious and exhausting, especially given the heavy tone of the game.

Now with the prospect of the price increase to $70 for next-gen games, it’s even more of the same. I’m actually surprised at the amount of support coming from the gaming community in regards to the price increase. I’ve seen people who actually think a $10 price increase will lead to publishers removing micro transactions. Really? That is not going to happen.

Now I understand, with inflation, games should be up over $100 by now. But I don’t think that means that games are underpriced now, I think that games (in retrospect) were overpriced in the 90s.

Now I do think there’s a place for large, all encompassing massive games that can charge a premium to purchase because the payoff is worth it. The problem is that there’s a lot of games that have no place being there. Nintendo is infamous for not adequately discounting games that are lacking in content. Why is Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze more expensive than BOTW right now?

With the massive expansion of indie games, the market has become extremely diverse, and I think it’s only going to continue to expand throughout the pricing spectrum. There’s nothing more satisfying than paying $10 for a game that is your go-to. That’s Rocket League for me. It doesn’t have a massive story campaign, and I don’t feel like I constantly have to put money into it – granted I have purchased it on three platforms. But it’s my happy place when I want to sit down and play a round or two. I’ll say it forever.

And there’s something coming from EA soon that will continue to scratch that itch I think: Star Wars Squadrons. It received a ton of hype when it leaked, and people seemed thrilled about the gameplay footage. Then they dropped the bomb that it was going to be $40. What surprised me was that people chilled to it. Speculation that it was not going to be a “full” game, or that it would be multiplayer only. It made me a little sad. Maybe I’m just optimistic, but I think that a $40 game has every right to be as good as a $60 game. I’d even prefer a slimmed down, streamlined experience if it cuts 1/3 of the price.

I asked opinions on episodic games. It was universally panned. That’s unfortunate because I have a prediction that that approach will become more widely used in the upcoming generation. Think of the massive film sagas that were made over the last 20 years. Studios pushed for multi-film contracts, even filming 2 or 3 movies simultaneously to minimize overhead and reduce costs. As games are nearing 50-150 million dollars to make now, I imagine publishers wanting to streamline costs to squeeze more profits out of specific properties. Right now you sometimes have a developer building an entire engine, capturing motion, developing characters, sets and worlds over the better part of a decade for a single $60 game, and maybe a content add-on. Imagine a story based game that is constantly evolving, or is developed as 3 10 hour self-contained stories, that release 6 months apart from each other.

Now I didn’t divulge that in my Instagram post, but the idea of episodic games was pretty universally panned, save for a comment or two about enjoying Life is Strange in particular. I think if done right like that was, it can be a rewarding experience.

What do you think? Games too long? Too short? Both? Would you be open to “trilogy-style” staggered releases for large epic gaming sagas, or do you like it just the way it is right now?

Cheers, Ty