Tell Us: How Long Is A Game Of String?

By Richard Cobbett on July 21st, 2011 at 5:00 pm.

Ah, Homefront. About 38% of Homefront, if memory serves. Probably should have added a spoiler warning...

A few years ago, games were mocked for ‘only’ being ten hours long. Now, increasingly developers aren’t simply coming in under that on a regular basis, but potentially aiming even shorter – as seen in this Develop 2011 session written up by Gamespot the other day. Some are arguing the audience doesn’t have the patience to last for ten hours with a game.

So how long should games actually be? How much do you insist on getting for your money?

We’ve got a weird split at the moment, where games that cost £35 or more can be finished in a single play, while 59p in the Apple App Store (other App Stores are available, but they suck) can while away hours, days, weeks or years. And that’s not counting MMOs, free-to-play games, or whatever interactive pyramid scheme dressed up in pretty graphics is taking Facebook by storm this second. For this though, I’m thinking of regular, commercial games, of the kind you might download from Steam or buy in an old-fashioned gaming shoppes.

It’s not an easy question, not least because every genre comes with its own expectations. An all-out action game might be deemed acceptable at eight hours, while there’s armed revolt (or at least, dice rolling to symbolise armed revolt) if an RPG comes in at just 15. And I don’t think there’s a specific number that applies to every game, for all people. One of my least favourite arguments is taking the cost of a game, dividing it by the number of hours, and comparing it to the price of a cinema ticket or a coffee or similar. The experiences are too different, not least because the film you’d have watched at the cinema has been edited down so that you don’t have to watch Batman trudging around Arkham Asylum for two hours looking for a giant green question mark or whatever. Two hours of a film is a complete, coherent experience… at least, ideally. Two hours of a game is usually much less directly satisfying – there’ll be awesome high points, yes, but likely many more forgettable moments, especially given the amount of repetition not simply accepted in, but directly built into the average game’s core mechanics.

When games were huge of course, there were many, many more of those. Mazes thrown in to artificially lengthen areas. Puzzles that didn’t give a damn if you were stuck waving a mouse cursor over every pixel for the best part of a week. Role-playing games utterly reliant on grind, or which abused the ability to use simple tile-sets to make dungeons so big, it’s a wonder the planet underneath them had enough space to fit them in. There’s definitely something to be said for focus, and for knowing you’ll be able to sit down with a new game and actually finish it.

At the same time though, £35 is a lot of money… Hmm. Tricky…

EXCITING VOX-POP QUESTION TIME!

Ignoring the obvious answer that a game should be ‘as long as it needs to be’, what kind of minimum length do you currently expect for your money? At the same time, how long is too long? Are there any games out there that you’ve been meaning to play, but ultimately avoided because you knew they’d be too much of a time-sink, no matter their cost? Go!

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219 Comments »

  1. Delusibeta says:

    It really depends on the amount of money I spend. I’m happy with VVVVVV lasting little more than two hours because I only spent five quid on it, and it was very good two hours. If I spent £30 on it, however, I’d feel a bit ripped off. Likewise, I spent literally £3 on Mirror’s Edge on my console toy, and thought it was very worthwhile. Had I spent the full 40 quid, I would have felt a bit ripped off.

    • GT3000 says:

      I personally think that it has to with value. There are people who place value on it’s entertainment per hour per dollar and those who judge it on quality per dollar. Honestly, you get more enjoyment out of the latter than the former.

      Homefront for example is great example of my personal quality per dollar. I enjoyed every hour of those short 5 hours in the campaign. I was engaged and it felt worthwhile. Multiplayer was a bonus. Others will grossly disagree. Would it been better if the quality (my personal perception of it) were halved for double the time? I don’t think so. I don’t aim to drop hundreds or dozens of hours for sub-par gameplay or plot. Like watching a movie at the theathers. Would you rather watch a stupid movie for cheaper price or a quality one for more dosh. I’d shell out for more dosh because the entertainment value is greater per dollar.

      Tl;dr: You have to way your values rubric. Which more important. A spellbinding experience or burning time. Short and sweet games or bland and long?

    • PiP999 says:

      My whole perception of value has been thrown into chaos ever since indie games on Steam have been on sale.

      I bought Metro 2033 for $50. I loved the heck out of the game but only had 7 hours of gameplay each time through the campaign. On the other hand I got Terraria for $5 and sunk 40 hours in 4 days’ time. Another time sinker for me was Killing Floor for $7 in which I had 140 hours.

      Overall I’d say that a bit over 20 hours for a single player game would be reasonable (STALKER comes to mind). For a multiplayer game or coop I would put the mark at 80+ hours, as I don’t have a single multiplayer game that I haven’t played for at least 100 hours.

      One game that I avoided due to the amount of time I would lose is Minecraft. I know its a wonderful game, but my life would end the moment my screen would become pixelated with its glory.

  2. TsunamiWombat says:

    8 hours, give or take, for most any game. If I come in above that I feel i’ve gotten a value for my money.

    • ulix says:

      I agree. 8 hours is totally okay for me, if the 8 hours are awesome and action-packed (obviously it has to be an action game, otherwise it’d be too short). God of War 3 is a good example. Don’t regret paying full price for it.

      And as sad as I am to admit: there are so many good games, and all of them I want to play. So in some cases I’m actually happy if a game is short, even if I have payed 50€ or 60€ for it.

      It all depends, I guess, on perceived value. God of War was my example. I could also name Heavy Rain (which isn’t an action game, although this one at least has some replay value).

      Obviously with some games I’m happy with more. I played through New Vegas taking about 80 hours or so, GTA4 also probably took me 40 or so (plus 10 for each episode).

    • Frank says:

      I’d also expect 8 for a SP game. Most of my favorites (Beyond Good and Evil, Zelda: alttp, Sands of Time, Riddick (?)) come in around there. I hate longer games made up entirely of filler (Oblivion and what I’ve seen of GTA), but will always go for a good long game (Deus Ex and Arkham Asylum feel a lot shorter than they are, at around 25 hours; Fallout maybe also falls in this range?). In recent memory…Assassin’s Creed 2 was pushing it by being so long and repetitive…Fallout 3 was long but not repetitive to the same degree, so I enjoyed it a lot more.

    • Kadayi says:

      I’d go with 8 hours also. I’m fairly fastidious gamer so I tend to take my time with games anyways, but judging from reviews & reports games I pretty much discounted as day one purchases based on SP play Length & review score were; Homefront, CODBlops & DNF . A lot depends on the quality as much as the quantity with a game though, as well as the genre type, and the novelty of the game. Mirrors Edge was a short game, but it was day one purchase simply because it had such an interesting mechanic in place. A flawed game, but extremely memorable.

      With a decent FPS 8 hours + (or 3 – 4 evenings ) of gaming is worth my £30 – 35.

      With an RPG I’m generally expecting about 30+ hours which is probably going to translate into 2 – 3 weeks of gaming for me, given I’ll probably fit in a few extra hours over the weekends.

      Conversely though I kind of dislike games that go on to long, especially if the story is deliberately dragged out. GTA IV is a prime example, of a game that would of benefited from a tighter story-line focus and a good 10 hours shaved off the playtime imho.

    • OOS says:

      For a full priced game, 8 hours is around what I expect. For me, between 8 and 25 or so hours is my ideal point; anything more, and the risk of padding enters the equation, anything less and it’s likely that the mechanics / story were not fully explored.

    • anonymousity says:

      I find 8 hours is ideal if the game is linear, ironically if the game isn’t linear and hence has replay value I expect a bit more.

    • P7uen says:

      I seem to remember completeing DX1 in 21 hours (without re-playing bits for fun). 8 hours of that and I wouldn’t have run round chopping up Hong Kong.

      Fair enough it was a bit RPGy as well, but that was just how long it needed to be. Even Fallout 3 with its 50 odd hours for me was ok, because I wanted to do all the trudging around, it was made to be interesting.

    • 0p8 says:

      Totally agree…
      Not counting the better quality “extra” long SP campaigns in shooters e.g.Half Life2, Stalker(CoP); and not going into genre specifics (RTS,RPG),or MP games……your average manshoot (FPS,TPS) or action/adventure game,the magic number should be (minimum) 8-10 hrs for the SP campaign (dependant on difficulty chosen of course)

  3. pakoito says:

    * Story game: 10-20h. More than that the story is diluted.
    * Grindy or sandbox game: 50-1000h. Yeah sure background and stuff now lemme grind moar monstars and jump off cliffs.
    * Match-based game: Depends on the game. RTS ~1h, Grand Strategy ~10h, ClassBasedFPS ~20min…

    • Batolemaeus says:

      You play class based fps only for 20 minutes until you get a new game?

    • pakoito says:

      Get there, pewpew some idiots until 50 points achieved, new round starts. Anyway, ~ can be more can be less can be 24/7 2forts.

    • westyfield says:

      I think that’s how long a round of class-based FPS is. Hence RTS being about 1 hour, and grand strategy being 10.

    • FakeAssName says:

      you are so delusional!

      anything longer than the opening cut scene is clearly excessive, in fact I personally insist that all my games consist exclusively of a single cut scene and whatever day one DLC is available.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Batolemaeus: I think 20 minutes is the average length of time between new hat releases in TF2, each of which transforms the game into an entirely different (and indubitably worse) experience. ;)

    • pakoito says:

      You’re so effin funny you should get a show in History Channel. Asked for lenght of a game, gave it. If you want to say a Singleplayer last 46 hours because it’s 20 first run and 25 New Game+ and 1 hour for that time I roll a character I didn’t like go ahead.
      Tits.

    • P7uen says:

      Come come, that was actually quite funny.

  4. Nalano says:

    In a purely single-player game? 30 hours, at least. STALKER comes to mind.

    Hopefully closer to 50, though, like the SPRPGs I play. Some, like Civ, of course, get hundreds, and were worth every penny many times over.

    But yeah. Full price? 30.

    Tired of the “Cinematic SP experience that’s shorter than two of the three LotR movies but costs the same as all three in IMAX with popcorn” business model.

    • Nesetalis says:

      ugh i hear you..
      if a game doesn’t give me at least a couple weeks of enjoyment, I’ve wasted my 60$

      if its short, it has to have replayability, to the point that i’ll play it over at least 4 or 5 times.. these fucking popcorn games need to vanish off the face of the earth.

      Dungeon Siege III for instance, i finished it in 9 hours, doing almost everything, and i cant replay it, there’s nothing new, nothing interesting, no way i could have done it differently, it would just be the same tired story over again.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      I recon a good 25 to 30 hours should be the benchmark for FPS. There needs to be a distinct arc of variation too. Take Crysis: Jungle, jungle, tank, alien stuff? oh fuck yeah alien stuff, frosty bit, vtol, base attack, jungle, car, (train? or was that warhead) aircraft carrier. There was huge whopping great bits that nicely arc to another area. Crysis 2 by comparison (apparently 11.5 hours on the ‘hardest’ setting) was just… men, men, cutscene, aliens, aliens, aliens, QTE, end. So the short duration was exacerbated by the homogeny of the action. Look at Prey! That’s a one sitting. (Meat walls, meat walls end).

      Describe other games in this method, it’s fun.

      Should I hit post? Oh too late!

    • triple omega says:

      I think the problem here is that devs are looking at games with multiplayer in them and determining their singleplayer value while ignoring the multiplayer. This really skews the results in favor of shorter singleplayer.

      What they are also, strangely enough, failing to realize here is that a shorter game is relatively more expensive to make. The more you can reuse content(textures, models, etc.), the cheaper it’ll be relatively. You also have to pay the same for the engine regardless of length. So there is no way a 5 hour game will be half the price of a 10 hour game, more like 80-90% of the price.

      Lastly I also think that the indies are really screwing up the value for money ratio for “AAA” developers. This is mostly because indies focus on gameplay first and fancies later or never. This means that even though they have something that can compete with the AAA’s on a gameplay level, they can put out way more content, as it is much cheaper to make. And to top it off the indies do all this while innovating.

      Oh and gamers not wanting to play more then 10 hours? Ever heard or Civ V, the Witcher, any multiplayer shooter, or maybe a little thing called Minecraft?! They seriously can’t be THAT stupid…

  5. Nero says:

    I don’t really look at the time versus cost that much. I’ve paid $5 for a game and played it for 40 hours and I’ve paid full price for a game that lasted 5-6 hours and I’ve had just as much enjoyment from them both. I’ve also stopped playing games that drag out a lot. I think around 40 hours is as much as I can take for a single player game.

  6. GHudston says:

    For a £40 game, I expect to be entertained for about 8 hours. This isn’t a strict rule, by any means.

  7. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I think a game should last from when you start playing it to when you finish playing it.

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      That sounds pretty obvious, but you make a fair point. You wouldn’t want a game to just die half way through.

    • LionsPhil says:

      There are many games that hadn’t finished yet by the time I was bored of the mechanics. Most of them RPGs, in fact, the usual genre for pumping up “OVER A HUNDRED SQUILLION HOURS OF GAMEPLAY”.

      It reaches the point where my time is more valuable than my money, and any kind of padding (not to be confused with downtime for pacing—see modern Half-Life vs Call of Duty) is the worst of game development sins.

    • Noumenon says:

      That sounds pretty obvious, but you make a fair point. You wouldn’t want a game to just die half way through.

      Or to kill you before you’re done playing.

    • Wizardry says:

      @LionsPhil: I agree. Hence why I always focus on mechanically interesting CRPGs as opposed to story heavy and mechanically shallow CRPGs. Try out a few late 80s and early 90s CRPGs. They do things a lot better in my opinion.

  8. Terr says:

    No full-priced game should be less than 10 hours, otherwise it’s just a rip-off. Personally I like my games to be as long as possible.

  9. Tei says:

    It depends if the game is shit or good. If the game is fun, I want to play it longer.

    • P7uen says:

      I pumped something like 20 hours into Starship Troopers: TA and that was shit.

      I love it, though.

  10. iou1username says:

    In the Game of String, you win or you tie.

    *cough*

    To answer the question, about 6-7 hours+ for a full price game. I’d have to be something special for me to buy it and only get that much, though.

  11. Lacessit says:

    I got into gaming through RPGs, I used to expect 80 hours of gameplay out of everything. Now I feel cheated under 30.

    Unless it’s Portal 2. I love you, you little stunted midget.

  12. alexiskennedy says:

    ‘ Some are arguing the audience doesn’t have the patience to last for ten hours with a game.’

    Can I just say, aaargh. I was on the panel, and that Gamespot piece took some quotes rather out of context. As a result I’ve been getting some nasty mail. Here’s a defensive blog post in case anyone here kicks off too: http://blog.failbettergames.com/post/The-things-we-did-and-didnt-say.aspx

  13. Wizardry says:

    Role-playing games utterly reliant on grind, or which abused the ability to use simple tile-sets to make dungeons so big, it’s a wonder the planet underneath them had enough space to fit them in.

    Uh oh. Dungeon crawlers had to be set in large dungeons else they would have been very short. If a game is situated in a single dungeon, it can’t be the size of a few rooms. “Simple tile-sets” were due to technological limitations. Specifically space limitations. Nothing more, really.

  14. westyfield says:

    It really depends on the game. 5 hours of generic manshooting leaves me feeling cheated, because you’ve probably not had much in the way of story (“ANDERSON! BAD GUYS OVER THERE, KILL THEY ASS!”) or different mechanics. 3 hours of Portal leaves me satisfied, because by the end you’re almost playing a different game than you were at the start.
    30 hours of Mass Effect was almost too much; the sidequests were fairly repetitive and made up at least 8 hours of those 30. 30 hours of Mass Effect 2 felt just right, because it was 28 hours of the main game and 2 hours of sidequests (I only did a few because I couldn’t be bothered to scan every planet to find more).
    I realise this is horribly vague, and I apologise most insincerely, but there’s really no objective length that is perfect for a game.

    Edit: Ok, so Kdansky just came along and made my point, but better and more concisely. Right below this one.

    • 8-bit says:

      I played ME2 for about 35 hours and at least ten of those were wasted on the resource collecting, I did most of the side quests too. seriously though, the whole game was made up from side quests with a main story that could be finished in under ten hours, I don’t know where you got 28 hours from.

      anyway I think it depends on the type of game or what the developers are trying to do with it, generally though for me a shooter should be about ten hours, rpg thirty and up etc. I do think the reason why some games are getting shorter is because the developers want to make action movies rather than games, and not that people have short attention spans.

    • jplayer01 says:

      Funny. To me, it felt like the whole game was a series of side quests up until the Omega-4 relay was unlocked. Once I was through the relay, it finally felt like I was doing something important in the galaxy, instead of tending to a bunch of side characters I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about (Ashley? Grunt? Jacob? Miranda?).

      So, side quests = 28 hours, main quest = 1 hour. I was sorely disappointed by ME2, in case that wasn’t clear.

    • Nalano says:

      Well, to be fair, western RPGs are always basically “You’re our only hope to save the world and time is of the essence!” and then attempt to distract you with 14 billion fetch quests.

      That said, for me ME and ME2′s story-driven sidequests were worth the time (even Miranda’s and I hate Miranda), but the grindy “clear out this Blue Suns base” or “probe launched” crap was not.

    • Wizardry says:

      Well, to be fair, western RPGs are always basically “You’re our only hope to save the world and time is of the essence!” and then attempt to distract you with 14 billion fetch quests.

      No they aren’t. Only people who haven’t played many western RPGs would say something as ridiculous as that.

    • westyfield says:

      When you guys say side quests, do you include the recruitment and loyalty missions in that? Because to me, they are part of the main story. They were fairly essential – whilst you could play the game by only recruiting the minimum number of squadmates and not doing any loyalty missions, it a) results in everyone dying, and b) smacks of intentionally missing out chunks of the game then complaining that it’s too short.

      1: Starcraft 2 sucks! It only has two races! So boring.
      2: There were 3 races.
      1: Well, yeah, but I don’t play Zerg ’cause they’re rubbish.
      2: *foamy mouthed with rage*

    • Nalano says:

      @Wizardry

      You kidding me? Even in the trifecta of Interplay/Black Isle/Bioware RPGs, there are a looot of lazy, lazy NPCs who need you to clear out their basement for them.

    • bwion says:

      @Westyfield

      I would actually say that the character recruitment/loyalty stuff *was* the main story in Mass Effect 2. It wasn’t a game about fighting the Collectors any more than The Canterbury Tales was a story about a trip to Canterbury.

    • Nalano says:

      @ bwion

      Or Fallout being one about finding a water chip.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Nalan: You said “always”. And then you named a few developers.

    • 8-bit says:

      a side quest is something, anything, that isn’t essential to the completion of the main story line. sure everyone dies if you don’t do them and they add a lot to the characters if you do, but you can still finish the game, so yes the loyalty missions were side quests.

      a lot of rpgs have quests for recruiting characters and then later you might get another quest from them, but they also have a ton of other quests and probably a big old main quest too. hell, bioware have done that in almost every game they made, its just that most of the time they don’t base an entire game around optional quests to recruit party members.

    • Nalano says:

      @Wizardry

      “Gawd, the lines are always so long!”

      Turns of phrase. Whenever you hear hyperbole – especially on the internet – turn it down a few notches.

      But really, when I think western RPG, I think Interplay/Black Isle/Bioware and, lately, Obsidian.

    • Wizardry says:

      I think of Origin Systems, Sir-Tech, New World Computing, Interplay and SSI. Maybe Westwood too.

    • Nalano says:

      Before my time, Wizardry. You’re talking 80s; I’m talking 90s.

    • Wizardry says:

      I’m talking 80s and 90s.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Pfft. Even if you were too young to be playing games in the mid 90s (what, under 22ish?), that’s no excuse. Love em or hate em, there’s nothing like old CRPGs around today, they were a thing, and worth at least trying.

      I mean, NetHack is still fundamentally a 1987 game, and you’ve played that, right? Right?

    • Wizardry says:

      Cut the sarcasm, TillEulenspiegel. Don’t you always bring up Darklands? That’s from 1992.

    • Nalano says:

      Well, I was born in 83, but I didn’t get into PC gaming real hardcore ’til 91 and into RPGs ’til IWD fell into my lap.

  15. Kdansky says:

    Any length at all, provided I am well entertained. I have played 350 hours of TF2 for Orange Box Price (nothing, give or take), and 10 hours of Portal 2 for 45 €. I find both acceptable, because Portal 2 was insanely good. I feel ripped off by bad games, not short ones. Padding games with repetitive grind (Regards to Bioware) is a big offence.

    Ironically, short and cheap indie games often have better content density and are less padded. I spend most of my gaming money there, nowadays.

    Judging games for length makes about as much sense as judging books for page number. Utterly pointless. Kafka has written great 10-page stories, and GRRMartin has written a bazillion pages for Game of Thrones, and both are very much worth it.

    To use someone else’s famous words: ‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’ I prefer perfect games to long ones.

    • Stochastic says:

      I could hardly agree more.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      Double agree. “Is it fun?” comes before “How long for?”

    • Nalano says:

      While I agree with the supposition that quality > quantity, less is not more. Less is less. More is more.

      The problem is not whether the games are long, but that they’re padded. I loved every second of the single-player games I spent hundreds of hours in, and hated the thousands of hours I idled in MMOs.

      But if I’m gonna pay fifty bucks a game, I want more than an evening’s entertainment.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      @ Kdansky: yeah, this. Exceedingly well put.
      Whenever I see people complain on message boards that a game is too short, it always sounds to me like “I didn’t like it.”

      BUT – people are definitely influenced by the expectations set by the genre etc. and as a result the average playtime becomes a big part of the genre itself, which tends to shackle developers who have to stay at least familiar-ish to sell units.

      Indies tend to get away with crossing or sidestepping genres more often than big titles and/so we don’t bring the same expectations to them, making playtime less of a big deal. It helps that they tend to be cheap too, and yeah, price is an issue even though it probably shouldn’t be.

      Blahblah, in conclusion: 24 and 1/2 hours.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      I agree with Nalano. If a game is long but padded with stuff I don’t like doing or stuff that isn’t necessary (tastes are different after all), I won’t enjoy it, even if it is cheap. If a low priced game is well done and is able to keep me interested, I won’t be happy if it is too short. So yeah – the golden mean. Usually it is hard to judge if my tastes will be met by a game before I’ve tried – maybe even worked into – it.

      But I will be much more willing to give a game a chance if it is priced reasonably. The same holds true for the opposite: If I have the chance to test the game before a purchase (demos for example…) and / or read really nice reviews / WITs / user reports I am willing to consider buying it a steeper price.

    • cjlr says:

      Well said, to all of the above.

    • JerreyRough says:

      If you like Civilization 4, then those famous words are spoken when researching some tech. I think its a fairly major tech. That’s where I remember it from anyway.

  16. MonkeyMonster says:

    full price 20-25 I’d expect at least 5 long sessions of 2hours or thereabouts. If the story is better you can get away with less of course.

    Haven’t paid over 20 quid for game for years though. Either pre-release mark downs or sales after.

  17. ResonanceCascade says:

    Portal was perfect at 3-4 hours and priced accordingly. Doug Church’s LMNO-that-never-was seemed to be taking an interesting approach to length — 3-4 incredibly deep, focused hours that have a lot of replay value.

    I don’t think game length is a one-size-fits all or even a once-size-fits-genre affair. A properly designed 4 hour FPS with tons of replay value *L4D* can be better than a 16 FPS that just drags on and on *Doom 3.*

  18. Bureaucrat says:

    A game should last for exactly as long as it is fun. For a full-price retail game, I would hope that means at least 8-ish hours.

    But I’ve played a lot more games that were too long (meaning, stretching past the point where the gameplay is fun) than I have games that were too short.

  19. ChaosSmurf says:

    8 minimum, happy with 10 for your average FPS (assuming decent multiplayer).

    If its got an open world or a ridiculous number of sidequests (i.e. “if it’s an RPG”) somewhere upwards of 24, around 30 is good.

    RTS between the two for its singleplayer, SC2s was about right and that came out at about 12-15 I believe.

    A lot of games these days don’t really have lengths though – what’s Team Fortress 2′s gameplay time? Street Fighter 4? Beat Hazard? Insert-MMO-here? I think we’re passed the point where the length of a game’s singleplayer portion is even a selling point any more (certainly outside RPGs). Multiplayer simply draws a bigger crowd with larger wallets.

    • Jake says:

      I would be forced to disagree about single player game play not being a driving force behind purchasing a game. I think the rise in indie games and developers is a definite sign of strong desire for good, well made single player games. Multiplayer has become the go to for big design houses because it’s easier…just get a lot of cool explosions, lots of gibbets, and cool weapons. Viola, we made money.

      Single player is the only reason I buy games. Multiplayer games bore the living shit out of me. How many times can I get knifed by some dbag that thinks it’s cool to pick on the new guys? Give me single player.

      And to answer the question about game length, simple answer. Give me an enjoyable game and I don’t care how long it is.

    • Nalano says:

      *knifes Jake*

  20. Stochastic says:

    I think the whole concept of trying to quantify the value of a game based on its length is a bit silly, really. I think instead we should measure the value of a game based on the number and quality of memorable experiences which it produces. I remember a lot of people complaining about Portal 2 being too short for a full-price game. However, when I factor in all the “aha” and “whoa” moments from the story and co-op, as well as all the potential the game has in the way of future (free?) DLC and mods, I feel like it was a fair buy. Conversely, there are many games that may have over a hundred hours worth of content but are not interesting enough for me to feel sufficiently motivated to play through it all.

    I think the value of the game as a holistic experience should also be considered. I have played hundreds of hours of Starcraft 2, but I have also invested several hundred hours of my spare time watching streams of players on Teamliquid, watching games from the GSL, NASL, IEM, Dreamhack, MLG and a bevy of smaller tournies. I have also spent a lot of time reading Teamliquid and Liquipedia and watching Day9 dailies. Should all this value, which I obtained outside the confines of Starcraft 2 itself, be counted as part of the entire package or altogether separate?

    • Kadayi says:

      Agreed. I wrung something like 30 hours out of Portal 2 playing the SP, the SP with commentary, & the co-op through, as well as getting a bunch of the more challenging co-op achievements like ‘Still alive’ & ‘Party of three’. Money well spent and as you say a tonne of great memories as well.

  21. pakoito says:

    Just want to clarify what ‘grind’ is. I mean gring in the good sense, the Disgaea-Monster Hunter-MMO one, where grinding is for the sake of grinding.

    If you’re padding your game with meaningless random fights or stupid level caps I’ll just quit playing at once.

  22. tikey says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I’ve recently played Jed Knight on steam and the clocks says I’ve finished it in around seven hours. I don’t know if the steam counter is wrong (very well could be) or we remember old games to be longer than they really were.

  23. killerkerara says:

    Personally, I expect at least one hour of strong, immersive gameplay for every $3 I spend on a game. If a game is going to cost me $60, then it had better have at least 20 hours of good gameplay, or I’ll have to wait for a good Steam sale.

    A game such as Starcraft 2 that cost me $60 only had about a 10 hour campaign for me, but I have spent enough time replaying the campaign in different ways, as well as endless hours in multiplayer and on custom maps for me to have gotten my money’s worth.

  24. jezcentral says:

    Although my younger self would want me put against a wall and shot, come the revolution, I prefer shorter games. MW2′s SP was a nice length, but I waited until a Steam sale to buy it, so I didn’t have to pay the full price, which I probably couldn’t justify to myself.

    I’m at a stage, now, where I can more or less buy any game I want, when I want, which wasn’t the case when I was younger. I still put 100 hours plus into some games, like Left4Dead 2, Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, Borderlands and Just Cause 2, but these are the exception, rather than the rule. This is in stark contrast to putting in thousands of hours into Master Of Orion 2, because it was the only game I could afford.

    Now I can buy loads, I want to experience them as whole things, not just play a few hours, and leave them unfinished, which is both unfair to the devs who want to show me their whole product, and leaves a gaping wound in my completion-fetish..

    That said, if Deus Ex: HR is not longer than 3000 hours, and utterly life-changing, I shall cry.

  25. coffeetable says:

    For a full-price game? A weekend’s worth of solid gaming (about 20 hours). I only buy AAA titles nowadays to de-stress at the end of major projects, with the idea of installing on the Friday night and returning to undistracted productivity come Monday morning.

  26. Teronfel says:

    over 9000 (seconds)

  27. Cooper says:

    Complete Sniper: Ghost Warrior last night.

    Total playing time? 4 hours, 30 mins.
    Perfect.
    For that kind of game.

    I got to the start of Chapter 4 in Dead Space too. Took me about an hour a chapter. Wondered how long it was, walkthrough suggests 12 chapters. Thought “I can’t be botherred to play it for that long”

    Then again, something like Stalker, because it’s a survival and exploration game, needs to be long.

    So, basically – it depends on the game. Corridor shooters should never be more than 5 hours.

  28. elmuerte says:

    A game should not be much longer than it is enjoyable to play. So, keep the tedious padding to a minimum.

    And then you price the game based on the amount of fun. A 50 euro priced game should really contain 10 hours of “game” (of which most of it should be fun).

  29. dudeglove says:

    Nowadays, digital distribution is screwing with this whole cost-benefit ratio. Games like Oblivion are going for peanuts on Steam, whereas boxed copies of Bulletstorm set back $60 straight up.

    Rather, if I start to notice a game make me backtrack just that *little* bit too much, that’s a bad sign right there that the game is too damn long by virtue of the fact that it’s being artificially lengthened by simply flipping it upside down.

  30. Vagrant says:

    My shelf / steam library is full of games I’ve only put 4-6 hours into. People say they want longer games, but statistics show most people don’t actually play to the end. Yay for achievements giving developers metrics.

    Just imagine how great games could be if they were shorter, removed all that useless fluff in the middle, and focused on meaningful content. Stories could be more cohesive and better paced, no more mundane fetch quests, and we’d be able to complete 10 games in the time it takes us to halfway complete one!

    4 hours of high production value would be a sweet spot for me. A drop in price would be nice, too. Many of my favorite games can be done in under an hour (Mirror’s Edge, Super Metroid, a round of Battlefield).

    • Saul says:

      This. Cut the padding. There’s nothing more boring than repetitive combat, and RPGs are the worst offenders.

      I’ll add that I’d much rather see shorter games with a lot more player choice, so that several replays are possible, over linear games that go on and on and on.

    • Wizardry says:

      They aren’t the worst offenders. Shooters are.

  31. Cooper says:

    Also, on the cinema ticket / coffee metric.

    A better one is pints of beer.

    A pint of beer is not defined by the amount of time it would take you to drink it, but by how much fun you’d have over the cours of one, two, three or 15…

    So a cheap game should provide as much entertainment as drinks after work. A full-retail price game should provide as much entertainment as the best part of a binge session.

    As such, I often wait for games to come down in price…

    • Nalano says:

      Plonking $50 in a bar carries with it a number of benefits that plonking $50 on a corridor shooter does not offer, including but not limited to:

      - Spending money on local businesses.
      - Speaking with real people who aren’t mouth-breathing twats (mostly).
      - The act of going outside and pretending you have a social life.
      - The act of getting drunk in a socially-acceptable manner (mostly).
      - Real live mammaries with ultra-realistic jiggle physics! (couldn’t resist.)

    • Cooper says:

      Exactly.

      Why spend £30 on a mediocre but not bad corridor shooter, when you could save the money and spend it on getting pissed along with all the above mentioned pros of getting pissed.

      Just wait for the mediocre game to cost a pint or two…

  32. The Innocent says:

    Hm, this is tricky. I’d say that a pure shooter (I’m thinking Call of Honor-types here, which are literally nothing but shooting) should last between 5 and 10 hours, while shooters with RPG or exploration bits (Deus Ex, Far Cry, etc) should be around 20-40.

    I do like it when RPGs are advertised as being 100+ hours long, even though that usually means they’re 60-80 hours long. Games like Fallout: New Vegas, Dragon Age: Origins, Skyrim (I hope!) are great when they’re expansive. But then there’s a rather large recent exception: The Witcher 2 wasn’t that long, and I found its length perfect. Maybe because it was intensely narrative-driven rather than trying to be open.

    Just Cause 2 was great as well: the central story could be finished in 10 hours if you wanted, but I’ve played over 100 hours in that game just dinking around, and I’m only 75% finished with it.

    So yes, very hard to gauge. Probably I’d say, “Your game should be as long as it can be before becoming boring.” Games like Call of Duty can’t really stand to be any longer (in my opinion), because they’d get immeasurably dull, whereas open-worlds where I’m allowed to dictate what I’m doing can always afford to have a bit more over the next hill.

  33. Grayvern says:

    Games should be as long as they need to be and developers should have enough faith in their audience to put them out at whatever length that is.

    It saddens me that developers have such a low view of their audience.

  34. wccrawford says:

    If I get below $2/hr, I get upset.

    However, as I replied elsewhere, they’re asking the wrong question.

    They note that some people don’t finish the game, and that makes them think the game is too long. In reality, they don’t finish the game because it -bored them-. A game is worth playing as long as it keeps you engaged. For some games, that means quitting 10 hours in, and others it means replaying it hundreds or even thousands of times. Measuring games in hours never made sense, since not everyone finds the same things enjoyable. A 100-hour-long game that you quit playing 2 hours in is just as bad as a game that you completely in 2 hours and don’t feel like playing again. At least, for the customer.

    For the company, the 100-hour game cost a lot more money to produce!

    All of Bethesda’s latest games have seen me spend upwards of 200 hours on them. They have tremendous value for the money. Of course, not everyone feels that way. Others think Pseudo-military Warfare 63 and Quarterbacking For The Money 89 have hundreds of hours of fun, where I think they have about 5, tops.

  35. nofing says:

    I don’t think there is a “too long”, at least not, as long as the game has new things to offer and doesn’t just send more and more filler and grinding stuff your way.
    I think 8-12 hours would be a good lenght for singleplayer games, ideally with some replay value (with other character or different skill paths)
    And I would actually prefer, if developers would only make singplayer games OR multiplayer games (like for example Valve does it) and if they do want to do both, then have two different studios, make two different games on the same engine and sell them separately.

  36. Evernight says:

    I have a system – it might be stupid but I have one in my head. For me there are many factors for a game to be “good” ONE of those factors is “value”
    To factor value I do something very simple:
    $1 per hour played.
    $40 game? I would expect to spend 40 hours playing it for it to get the “value” factor
    I bought Just Cause 2 for $25 on Steam sale…. I have spent 50 hours in it. Lots of value!
    I spent $40 on portal 2 …. I spent 8 hours in it. Not so much value.

    Does this mean that the game was bad? No. Just that it didn’t mean the value factor. Story, mechanics, graphics etc are all other factors.

    So if you are going to sell me a game for $50 I should expect to spend 50 hours playing it, replaying it, multiplayering it, etc.

    Thats just me.

  37. MiniMatt says:

    Just glanced at Steam – I have 499 hours in Civ 5 and 160 hours in New Vegas (and haven’t even started any DLC in that yet).

    Too short would be, hmm, your right it’s genre specific but I’d say anything less than 10 hours regardless of genre is likely going to make me a tad grumpy (heavily multiplayer focused games get a let off here if their single player is a bit shorter, or non-existent).

    Too long – don’t think there’s such a thing. I’ll play it while I’m enjoying playing it, and if I don’t finish it first that’s fine too.

  38. Jason Moyer says:

    I don’t really judge games on length. A good game will leave me wanting more no matter how long it is, and a bad one will have me rushing to finish it or just uninstalling it halfway through. I’d pay $60 for a good 2-4 hour game if it holds that peak of awesomeness from beginning to end.

  39. Colthor says:

    I don’t tend to like your linear, “story-based”, desperately-trying-to-be-a-film games much, and when I get them cheap just to see what the fuss is about there’s not much chance I’ll finish them. Gears of War would need a far better story as a carrot before I’d care enough to keep slogging through the actual, tedious game.

    So having boxes to hide behind for three times as long wouldn’t be better value, for me at least.

    I guess, therefore, that it depends on how much I’m enjoying the game. I was happy to play Dragon Age for 100 hours, and was sad that it was over (although it was obviously amazing value for money, I wasn’t sad about paying twenty-five quid for it).

    But strategy games, games with a decent world to explore (or a random generator), simulations and so on will mean you can play them until you get bored or distracted by something else, so for them “how long they are” is not really relevant. It’s their mechanics that are important.

  40. CaspianRoach says:

    Thing is, it’s hard for FPS to constantly throw something new on you, because even the smartest dev can only do so few scenarios themes “you shoot people”. After a while it gets boring. If the game is not over by the moment you’re bored, that’s not a good game!

    • HelderPinto says:

      This comment reminds me of bioshock, genius game in almost all aspects but it drags too much.. it should have been 5 hours or more shorter.

    • Nick says:

      never felt bored in System Shock 2, aside from the many section.
      Bioshock as boring because the shooting was lame and the enemies were too.

  41. HelderPinto says:

    MGS games are 20 / 24 hours and are perfect.

    DeusEx is also 20/25 hours.

    If it’s a game like Crysis 2, Uncharted 2, etc, 10 hours is spot on.

    • MattM says:

      As a pretty novice gamer I beat MGS 2 in about 10 hours, on a second play though I skipped cut-scenes and finished in under 5.

  42. Duke of Chutney says:

    i generally work on a £1 per hour of entertainment. This is a loose rule i apply to all games. The hour should be an hour of being engaged in the game, so slow strategy games like the paradox games i work at something like £1 per every two or three hours. So most modern FPS fail my standard but i never pay RRP, i usually pick up games 6 months later in a sale. Most indies work quite well under this system. A game can be short if its good enough to warrent replay. Ive played Deus Ex 1 through 15 times or more, HL2 about 6 times through etc.

  43. dadioflex says:

    I spent about two hours lost in one particular Two Worlds 2 tomb.

  44. TheIronSky says:

    As far as a linear campaign, Mass Effect 1 and 2 had it about right when it took approximately 20-30 hours to complete everything, including all the side quests. There were enough focused stories and interesting missions that even on the “grinding,” sorts of missions (especially those vehicle sections in Mass Effect 1) there were usually moments of triumph. As far as RPGs go, well, I still play Oblivion, and I’ve probably logged about 150 hours on that game in total, across several playthroughs. Same with Borderlands. For the most part, the grinding/looting is part of the fun in those games, so I don’t mind it. It’s the freedom that allows you to take a break from the repetitiveness (especially in Oblivion) and do whatever you want. That game was certainly worth the $50 I paid for it. On the other hand, Portal 2, while the campaign was incredibly fun and had one of the best endings in a Valve game to date (Looking at you, L4D) it had a surprisingly short and fairly easy campaign. None of the puzzles were really that difficult, and I beat the whole thing in one night in about 7 hours. Sure, I played it again afterwards, but the overall length was just unsatisfying. Was it worth the money? If it was single-player alone, probably not, but with the co-op that I have yet to explore? It might be worth it.

  45. Serious J says:

    It depends on the game, but I’m not happy unless the base game provided at least 12 hours of entertainment, and provided some sort of modding that extends that amount by a great deal more.

  46. Sky says:

    For a story driven shooter or an action-adventure type game, at least 10 hours.
    For pure fun shooters(like Bulletstorm) 5-6 hours is enough. It gets boring afterwards.
    For RPG’s, at least 25, for JRPG’s longer than every dick(converted to hours) in the world, for Diablo clones, infinity.
    For less than 10$ games, i don’t care how long they are, being beautiful is enough.

  47. Maykael says:

    I think my expectations vary from genre to genre.

    RTS: Single-player – about 20-30 hours; Multi – whatevs.. needs to be good.

    TBS: In my experience, a good TBS (Total War, Civ, JA2 etc.), be it large scale or small scale, can potentially mean hundreds of hours of fun. The wealth of the mechanics is what matters here. This goes for puzzle games as well.

    Adventure: 20 hours, but not if it means crappy meaningless puzzles that get in the way of the story.

    RPG: I don’t want to be an asshole and say that 70 hours + or GTFO, because I’d be cutting off games that I really like (Mass Effect 1, The Witcher 2), but the best part of an RPG for me is exploration and if one manages to offer that in 40 hours good for them (Risen for example). I felt a bit underwhelmed by The Witcher 2 with respect to exploration. Beautiful environments, but not much to see, as the game was focusing on its story. Still felt it was a bit short for 45 fucking euro, something I’ve not felt with regard to the first one.

    FPS: Single – About 10 I’d reckon, though if you’re Half Life 2, you can do less, Multi – depends on the game.

    There’s lots more to say, as hours=money=entertainment is not a mathematical equation, obviously, but these are my expectations going in blind, though they may vary depending on the franchise or developer as well.

  48. Iain_1986 says:

    If you’re sitting there clock watching, its obviously not grabbed your attention enough.

    Regardless of length, if its entertained me and I feel satisfied then thats all that matters, and thats completely subjective on a case by case basis, there’s no exact forumla for me to grade a game against before I buy it.

  49. Greg Wild says:

    Any less than 10 hours is a travesty.

  50. Icarus says:

    I think I consider cost against enjoyment more than cost against time. Assuming they both cost the same amount, I’d rather play an eight hour game that was pretty consistently enjoyable (War for Cybertron), than a forty-hour game that had an incredible amount of filler, tedium and draggy-outy bits (Oblivion).

    That said, though, I do expect a certain amount of content for my money. I’m not going to pay £30 on a game that I can complete in a day and never touch again. If I spend £30 on a game, I expect it to last me a good amount of time- Assassin’s Creed 2 would be a good example of a game I’d be happy spending £30 on. Going by the Steam tracker, it lasted me about 35 hours (probably more since Steam playtime tracking is broken; I’d estimate closer to 40 or 45 hours, with ample breaks in between, which is roughly what I spent on Mass Effect 2) to complete the main story line as well as all the Templar bases and Assassin tombs.