How much game you get for your hard-earned dollar has been a fairly constant debate, but the running length of games like Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, South Park: The Stick of Truth and even Infamous: Second Son have all been criticized for being far too short for the price you pay for the game. Ground Zeroes is only $20-30 depending on how you buy it and on what system, but also offers maybe 2 hours of storyline gameplay with little in the way of extras. Stick of Truth clocks in at roughly 12-15 hours, but admittedly that’s pretty short for an RPG. I haven’t finished Second Son yet, but even clearing all the districts isn’t taking that long. I imagine that barreling through the story might take 8 hours tops.
What about the other side of the coin though? There are games that while lengthy, seem full of useless filler. I can never finish a Grand Theft Auto game, the story just starts wearing thin at the 20 or so hour mark, and there’s usually plenty left to go. I just recently finished Persona 4 Golden on the Vita, which took me over 60 hours. Now I had a lot of fun with it, but there was also a lot of filler, with me often finishing dungeons early (like within the first day or two in the game they are available) only needing a couple more days here and there to grind, and having to kill lots of days doing absolutely nothing because I’ve maxed out social links and read all the books and maxed all the skills I care about.
Compare that to Stick of Truth. Sure, it’s “short” by RPG standards, but there’s a ton packed into that dozen or so hours and it moves at such a fun frantic pace that it doesn’t even give you a chance to get tired of it (at least in my opinion). It really manages to not overstay its welcome. If they made it a 30+ hour epic (much like some of the games that inspired it) it would probably feel very worn out by the end. I can barely imagine there’s enough material for a sequel.
Then there are games that are super short, but do so much with their time. Journey is considered an artsy classic, is pretty much impossible to not finish and you are done in under two hours. Gone Home is one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past year, and again it clocks in at maybe a couple of hours.
People seem to think there’s some magical formula that price = number of hours or even price = quality, but the price is just ultimately what the publisher thinks they can get away with charging somebody for their game. $60 is the standard for a new AAA game, so that’s what a lot of publishers currently set it at. That $60 doesn’t really guarantee anything beyond that you get a game in a box. This is changing between sales, digital releases, indie pricing and so on, but it’s still the public mindset that if you pay X amount for this game, you should get X out of it, without any real agreement on what that means.
More important than how long a game should be how much you enjoyed it in the time that you played with it. I’d much rather play a 6-8 hour masterpiece of a title than one that was 15-20 hours and just felt bloated. Maybe I’d feel differently if I was somebody who had almost nothing but free time and not much else to do, but I think most of us can relate to being an adult, having a job and responsibilities and not a whole lot of free time. So we want something that respects that, and a video game filled with hours of pointless grinding or collecting or sidequests just to get through the main story is not. If you want to make most of that stuff optional for those who do have the time and devotion that’s great, but don’t make it mandatory for those of us who don’t.
What do you think, Gamesided audience? Is there indeed a magic formula for how much a game should cost vs. how long it is? Let us know in the comments.
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