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. Nick says:

    If its £30+ for a 4-5 hour game, I won’t be happy and won’t buy it if I find out beforehand.

  2. starclaws says:

    Good multiplayer games can get me 1000 hours easily. If a decent single player game can’t get me at least 10+ hours of game play in first play through then it isn’t even worth all the overpricing when I am still enjoying 15 year old multiplayer games.

    And I semi speed run everything. So that 10+ hours is tough to achieve. But games aren’t even HALF that generally. Games can never be too long. Depending on how the game is constructed and if it isn’t tedious grind-fest and repetition. Then there’s no way it could be too long. The open world style games could hold me strong literally for years if they develop the concept properly and build it large enough. Take Elderscrolls and mix in random generated humongous world. Ill give you $60.

    As for the arguing that 10 hours is too long? Quit playing devil’s advocate. If you don’t spend more than 10 hours a half-year gaming but spend $60 on a brand new game? You should reconsider where you spend your money on entertainment. Like all these idiots that buy movies just to have them on a shelf doing jack shit but collecting dust. If you buy games. Play them. Don’t come crying when you have the attention span of a larva and the memory of a dead badger saying 10 hours is too long.

  3. Rush Ton says:

    I am not sure playtime per dollar is nescissarily the best metric but would rather go for something along the lines of idea’s per dollar with Ideas ranging from new mechanics to new environments to new enemy types. obviously this is a little fuzzy and hard to quantify but can suggest why portal while very short seemed worth it because every chamber was packed with a new component or a new way of using your portals or a new clever gag whilst something like dragon age 2 with its reuse of environments and lazy spawning enemies seems like much poorer value despite its significantly longer playtime.

  4. oceanclub says:

    I’m one of those crazy people who thinks, on the whole, many games are just too damn long and have too much filler. I have a limited amount of time and want to experience as many games as possible. If _the main plot_ (that’s a caveat) of a games takes 100 hours (hello Dragon Age), that’s simply a huge chunk of my time that could have been spent on other things. I mean, I could watch the entire works of Francois Truffaut and Jean Cocteau in that time. I could be a French film genius!

    I put in the caveat above since there are games like Oblivion that I _did_ spent 100 hours (probably more at) but that was _after_ the main plot was over. I kept playing because I enjoyed – I didn’t feel coerced to simply keep going to see the ending. I’ve no problem with that way of extending a game – DLC or side quests after the main quest is over. Or even a game like HL2, which I replayed recently, realise was pretty long, but whose gameplay and settings are still so varied (even after you’ve already played it) that time whizzes by.

    All in all, I do think games are pretty good value for money. I mean, DVDs on release are, say, €15 or €20 euro, for a movie that, even if you’re a nut, will possibly only watch a few times. PC games on release these days are rarely more than €30 (cheapest price, say online retail).

    P.

    • cjlr says:

      100 hours? For Dragon Age?

      The same dragon age at which I put in a near-completionist first run at about 40 hours?

      Which only goes to show that ‘length’ is very subjective, on top of all else.

    • Kadayi says:

      @cjlr

      40 hours? Unless you were skipping a tonne of dialogue and side quests I find that hard to believe tbh (don’t trust Steams time record either, because if you alt- tab out of a game it stops counting that session). Even the power gamers I know spent a good 60 – 70 hours on it. Personally with the DLC and a couple of restarts (I like to try things out differently) I clocked over 200 hours.

    • Valvarexart says:

      It says on your character page or somewhere like that. I did it in 58 hours, and I wasn’t skipping or rushing anything. Might not have done EVERYTHING, mind, but I did a complete normal play-through. And it was long enough for me, thank you. I cannot fathom how you endured 200 hours.

  5. gallardo1 says:

    Deus Ex 1 is my touchstone: it used to be my perfect length but now it would be impossible to complete in a reasonable timeframe.
    This over-abundance of titles has its weight since I want to try more or less everything, and when it comes to FPS, I prefer a concise experience.
    I would be happy with a 4-6 hours fps but with lowered price, with the possibility of further content within 1-2 months max.
    Anyway, I feel like I could play longer games if they can maintan the interest for all their length.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      So true! Along with getting everything else right, Deus Ex’s length was spot on. 20-odd hours I’d say per playthrough.

  6. Nidokoenig says:

    A game has to have at least ten hours of content for me to feel like £30 is worth it. Really, they’re competing against me deciding to play another twenty hours of Morrowind, X-Com, Dorf Fort or Ouendan, or actually playing some of 200 or more games I’ve got through Steam sales, GOG, indie bundles and freeware stuff, to say nothing of my PS2, GCN and Wii backlog.

    Any game that is still holding my interest and still making me feel like I’m learning and improving(not levelling up, my personal skill at the game) after twenty hours is amazing, and probably something I’m going to come back to again, or, like Plants vs Zombies, something I’m definitively done with forever.

  7. Hammelbamf says:

    Depends on genre and price.
    I’m not paying 59 bucks for a 8 hour shooter that could’ve easily been an addon the the previous title in that series. For 20 I may be in.
    But games likes Deus Ex 3 and the Mass Effect Series I wanna spend at least 20 hours in and am willing to pay the “normal” price. Or innovative projects, like Portal, regardless of their length.

  8. HeavyStorm says:

    Know what? I don’t give a f@@k about how long it lasts. If the game is good, it’s good. I’ve never complained about Portal 1 being short. I don’t complain about The Witcher being long.

    If a game is too long and gets “un-fun” because of it, fuck, I want it shorter. If it’s so small that it seems to me the plot is lacking or there is potential to be realized but wasn’t, I will be mad as well.

    But I don’t think we should be relating duration to money, games are not whores.

  9. mod the world says:

    As i still desperately try to finish The Witcher 1 in my spare spare time, i got a good feeling about how long is too long. Steam says i played it for 37 hours and i got the feeling of complete saturation at about 30 hours. So 30 hours is my maximum i suppose.

    On the other hand, Portal 2 felt way too short, 7 hours of (admittedly excellent) gameplay is just not enough for 50€.

  10. Vandelay says:

    I’m a bit of a completionist; I like to finish my games. Now that I earn money and can buy any game I want, but have far less time to play them in, shorter games are generally preferable.

    As others have said, it does depend on the type of game and what it hopes to achieve. For example, Portal 2 was a good length for what was effectively a comedy game; Crysis 2 was about the right length for a corridor shooter; The Witcher 2 was a very good length for a heavily story driven RPG (the first less so.) When it comes to games by Bethesda or similar, the main quests are generally not the draw, so it is more a case of when I get bored, without any compulsion to finish.

  11. Dr_Nick says:

    If it’s a bad game, I’m obviously not going to waste more than a couple of hours on it.

    “Sorry devs, guess you’ll have to try harder.”

  12. RagingLion says:

    There were some really good points in the main article btw. So as for me:
    - First off £25 is my upper limit for any game, even the ones I really want.
    - I am dissuaded from buying games that will require too much time investment but those aren’t necessarily pure single-player: e.g. Star Craft 2; Civ 5; Oblivion or Skyrim.
    - I want quality not just length, but certain depths of emotions which I like games to provoke can’t be tapped into by shorter length games; e.g. feeling like you’ve been on a journey or progressed as a character/part of a group of people can only happen in longer games convincingly.
    - Given the above, I like immersive stories to be 15-25+ hours long for the sake of quality – nothing to do with price.
    - If there’s a small indie game of less than 2 hours length, say, then I’d find it hard to pay more than £5 for that at the most though it’d depend how much I was really excited by it.
    - Steam sales and subsequent games backlog has increased the quality/£ I need game to prove in order to convince me to buy it now (e.g. I bought Mass Effect 2 and AC2 for £10).
    Edit:
    - Shorter game experiences are great though and I’d like to see a greater number of quality 3-6 hour offerings – I’d probably pay £5-15 for such games varying wildly based on quality and personal interest.

  13. Warlokk says:

    If a game is less than 12 hours long in single-player, I will not pay full price for it, simple as that. The only exceptions to this are multiplayer-focused games like the Battlefield series, which I can get many hours of enjoyment out of.

  14. godwin says:

    It depends on the work. So the answer would be: however long it needs to be. Whatever it takes for the intention to be communicated and experienced. You then build the work, the game, towards that. So it could be two hours, or 200 hours. There shouldn’t be a system of strict quantifiable criteria for “what it should be”, and especially not one that’s pegged to genre definitions. Length is not an indication of how good the experience was, rather, that is decided by the individual and her contextual experiences.

  15. GrandmaFunk says:

    well if I enjoy a game, I rarely play it for less than 40 hours…so I’d assume the opposite is true.

    But I tend to find one game I like and play only that for months on end.

  16. der jester says:

    “Fights will go on as long as they have to.”

    I typically go on the metric of cinema hours and game hours, but I realize that’s unfair. I still use it to rationalize purchases and explain paying for an MMO. If I ever drop below X hours of playing an MMO I cancel the sub.

    I don’t think it’s fair to lump any games together and say “This is ok in this scenario.” in SPRPGs having to fight the same five monsters for several hours to progress past the next set of challenges is crap. The game should be structured to have minimal grind and account for various levels of character powers, but also offer non-required challenges for people that obsessively level. FFVII comes to mind as a game that scaled the story well with level but also had absurd challenges that required grinding your heart out.

    I think it’s easy to know if a game is too short or two long as a player. Portal was short, but not too short. It was a full experience that scaled it’s challenge through out the game. STALKER did the same on a longer scale. Weapons and armor had constant improvement, along with finding artifacts and exploring new areas. The player has to be engaged throughout the experience.

    Halo 1 would be an example that pushed the edge of tolerance. Some levels were incredibly repetitive and the difficulty scaled oddly. The Library was a bullshit grind that took way to long and way too difficult compared to the levels both before and after it.

    Call of Duty is not worth it to me personally because I don’t like the multiplayer that much. I don’t feel invested in the multiplayer and frequent player death is unsatisfying to me. TF2 I could play for days on end, primarily because I’m a coward and hide behind Heavies as a Medic.

    I think every game and type has a sweet spot that suits it. While a movie price per hour compared to a game is a decent rule of thumb, it’s certainly not law by any means.

  17. DarkByke says:

    I need to finish a game in a single sitting (4-5hrs) otherwise there’s too many distractions of life. I go to work for 12hr shifts and by that time I’ve forgotten everything in the games storyline… So I gotta restart from beginning again. Plus food, plus telephone, plus….

    Portal 2 keeps popping up in this topic so I’ll add. I took 12 hrs to complete. I like exploring, looking at things, taking in the visuals and lighting. I like the art.

  18. Dave Mongoose says:

    I’ve got quite broad tastes in games, playing FPSs, RPGs, adventures, some strategy titles, and a bunch of indie undefineables… so a game that’s longer than it needs to be is a bad thing in that it eats into my time to play other games.

    As it is I’ve got an ever increasing list of games in my ‘to play’ list (Fallout New Vegas, DoW2: Retribution, Witcher 2.. and that’s just scratching the surface).

  19. wiper says:

    If I were to narrow it down, I’d say somewhere between one and one-hundred hours. Yes, that sounds about right.

  20. airtekh says:

    Quality is more important to me than quantity. If I get both, then that’s fantastic.

    I’ve spent 30 hours in games I don’t really like and a handful of hours in games that I really enjoyed, but have had very little replay value.

  21. VileThings says:

    When it comes to purely numerical terms I’d say that I want at least one hour of game time for every Euro I invest, although with current games it’s more like two Euros for every gaming hour, higher or lower depending on the genre. However some games offer a shorter, yet more satisfying gaming experience (like Portal 2) while others stretch out the time you spend in the game without actually doing anything worthwhile (I’m looking at you, Far Cry 2).

    To me a really good game is one with a high replay value. I hate it when I play through a game, then think “well, that’s that” and deinstall it because it doesn’t offer me anything anymore, apart from another playthrough in several months/years.

    • MattM says:

      Cutting out about 30-40% of Far Cry 2 would have made it a better game. Way too many missions were just copy-pasta and I was so relieved to reach the end.

  22. Fumarole says:

    Everyone knows it’s not the length but the girth that matters.

  23. Radiant says:

    Developers!

    PACE YOUR GAMES.
    If you want to make a movie then make a fucking movie.

    COD Blops I’m looking at you.

    Although, the exact length of the perfect game is skewed for me.
    Currently in a very deep Witcher 2 hole.
    I spent 30 minutes last night fucking every whore in Flotsam.

    I’m the Shabba Ranks of RPGs right now.

  24. ssbowers says:

    30. I want to shoot from first person perspective for 30 hours.

  25. Leandro says:

    Te answer is very dependant on the genre. RPG-wise, I felt Mass Effect was a bit short, for example, but I was satisfied with Dragon Age. I did not buy Divinity 2: Ego Draconis because I heard it’s very time consuming and I did not want to tire and leave it unfinished, but I loved Oblivion’s length.

    On the other hand, I feel OK spending a much bigger amount of time on neverending games like Galactic Civilizations 2, Civ V, Mount & Blade and Football Manager, I don’t know why.

    For FPS, Call of Duties are too short, Quake 4, Half-Life 2 and Bioshock are perfect in length.

    • Nalano says:

      I wouldn’t call Divinity 2 time-consuming. Combat-heavy, sure, but not overly time-consuming.

  26. somedude says:

    I think if you have a linear-progression game, then game time is important, due to the case that once you’ve gone down that corridor, there’s not often much of an incentive to do it over again. Therefore, if your game is a 6-hour thing that you only touch once, I’m not going to touch it unless it’s dirt cheap. On the other hand, if it’s an open-world game, you can have a scripted “plot” portion of the game that’s essentially nonexistent and I’ll be happy to create tens of hours of fun on my own. So, I suppose it’s variable, but if you’re going to make games like they’re movies (linear, cinematic-heavy, etc.), then a game that charges the same as 4 or 5 movie tickets should have a roughly equivalent length of entertainment as far as I’m concerned. (or, forget about that game style and just make insane open-world games from now on, I’d be perfectly fine with that :)

  27. mollemannen says:

    i think you should get a theoretical infinite time for the money spent. i didn’t get dragon age 2 because just knowing i had to spend 40-50 hours minimum put me off.

  28. sinelnic says:

    Slightly OT, but I believe one thing is “core gameplay” and another is “story”, obviously, but sometimes it’s clear that gameplay could go on forever were it not for the necessary end the developer must put to the story. While sometimes gameplay would not be fun for even a minute were it not for the story.

    So in many cases multiplayer adresses that, continuing the “core gameplay” beyond the story, but requiring other humans to fill the “inexpectedness” of the gameplay.

    I believe a great game would have a core gameplay fun enough to come back and back again, and a play mode that allowed for that, while still packing a great story for the initial at least 8-10 hrs of gameplay.
    As an example, Psychonauts had a great story you could finish straight away in [I forgot how many hours] but you could still enjoy the fun and fluid gameplay and gameworld by coming back to the various scenarios to collect collectible stuff.

    In some special cases though, where the developers are trying for something Higher than my mere money, say, Pathologic, I’m cool if the gameplay lasts whatever they feel like, since it’s truly part of the intended Experience.

  29. Carra says:

    If it’s a great game it can’t last long enough. If it’s shitty it can’t be over too soon

  30. soulblur says:

    I rarely buy games at £40. The only ones I would really consider doing so for would be roleplaying epics like Skyrim or the GTAs, where I fully anticipate around a hundred hours of play. Is that unfair? Maybe. I’m generally happy spending £10 on a game which gives me 6 or so hours of good fun. But Sims Medieval, for example, felt like poor value for money when I bought it full price.

    However, in console land, I tend to rent a lot of games now. When the game seems good, but the length isn’t there. Much cheaper through Lovefilm.

  31. Om says:

    While I make an exception for exceptionally well crafted games (looking at you Portal 2), as a rule I expect to get a minimum of 20hrs from a game

  32. NickThatCajunMayo says:

    Its just that more and more games today are focused on multiplayer gameplay and not the story. Another thing that @tikey said was that older games seem a bit longer, yes they do, games like Doom 3 I spent much more time on than say MW2 or Homefront, but I really think since Cod4 all FPS games have lost many singleplayer hours and just focused on multiplayer. But I have to admit STALKER is a big exception, on one playthrough of Call of Pripyat I spent 114 hours, the multiplayer was fun too, but laggy as hell since all the servers are in Europe, and on SoC I spent 62 hours. But now since the blunder of homefront, which luckly I got Metro 2033 out of, any game that advertises its singleplayer has to have a campaign longer than Half-Life 2

  33. MattW says:

    Full price, probably five hours minimum.

    (There’s no linear relationship between value and length though, obv. A game should go on for as long as its concepts can hold up for. Portal 1 was the right length for its concepts. Portal 2 was probably too long. The biggest length-related crime though for me is a game which doesn’t properly signal how near the end you are. Unexpected endings, and unexpected extra chapters, are far bigger crimes for me than “being too short”.

    Also, as I get older, I find myself with more money to spend on games and less time to play them. One wonders what the correlation between complaining about game length and actually paying for games is.)

  34. Dominic White says:

    That OMM article is all the funnier because as short as Max Payne 1 seemed at the time, I completed Max Payne 2 in about 4 hours. That’s cutscenes and deaths included. I was so glad I’d borrowed a friends copy, because I would have felt so ripped off if I’d paid full price for that.

    It really is a function of price these days, though. At $5-10, you can get away with being 2-4 hours long. If I’m putting down a full $50, it had better be 12 hours or longer, though, or if it’s a shorter game, then it needs serious replay value. I was fine paying £30 for Vanquish because while it may be 6-7 hours long for a single playthrough, it’s designed to be played at least two or three times if you want to experience everything.

  35. BobsLawnService says:

    I’m not too worried about the temporal length of a game. As long as there is no filler and the game stays interesting throughout I don’t care if it is 5 hours or 50. 55 hours should be a minimum though for a full priced game.

  36. ezekiel2517 says:

    I like it when a developer tells me what I like.

  37. aircool says:

    I can remember buying ‘The Terminator’ for the Megadrive. £40 for a 20 minute piece of shite. Twenty fucking minutes it took to complete… I was waiting for the next level. Swapped it for Alien3.

    It’s easy to say – no minimum as long as it’s a fun game… but when it’s fun for 20 minutes, I tell you, you’ll still be raging 20 odd years later.

  38. Vile Vile Vilde says:

    I’m finding it hard to stick to any games for even a few hours.

    My attention span seems to have shrunk to almost 3 year old levels.

  39. Avish says:

    I just spent 2 hours reading all the comments for free!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You get the bill separately.

    • ffifofu says:

      I’ve read 5 minutes and skipped to the end. The trial was enough.

      I did purchase the terrible Puzzle Agent 2 because I enjoyed a lot the first Puzzle Agent that has little more than 1 hour of gameplay and 0 replay value. A benefit granted to the indie or casual. Maybe EA will fade out this brand in favor of Popcap :P.

  40. Zeewolf says:

    I buy lots of games, but they’re seldom full-price ones (either because they’re indie or because they’re discounted). And when I do buy something at full-price, it’s usually an RPG, an open world-game or something similar, so I expect quite a few hours from it.

    If I buy a full-price shooter… about 10 hours, I guess. And unless it’s really great, I wouldn’t really want it to last much longer than that. Also, it’s not the size that matters et.c.

  41. MaxwellKraft says:

    I don’t care about how long a game is nearly as much as I care about how replayable it is. I’m fine with short games if subsequent playthroughs are still fresh and interesting.

    • Saul says:

      This. Pack all that content into something small and beautiful and complex, instead of stretching it out over hours and hours.

  42. innociv says:

    “Some are arguing the audience doesn’t have the patience to last for ten hours with a game.”
    What a coincidence, because I don’t have $60 to spend on a game.

  43. geldonyetich says:

    My personal rule of thumb is never to shell out full price for a game that does not have some kind of open-ended play structure it that permits me to drag it out as long as I feel like. For example:

    Two Worlds II – It might have a fixed main plot structure but it is for the most part an open-ended game that you can take your time and dabble about all you want.

    UFO: Extraterrestrials Gold – X-Com formula game with multiple difficulty levels, you’ll probably restart it as many times as you want just for the thrill of the tactical combat and going up the tech ladder. (If only it were not a buggy travesty.)

    Diablo / Civilization – Both feature a large range of procedurally generated content.

    MMORPGs – The developers of a monthly subscription-based game will not only endeavor to extend your play time, they’ll endeavor to slowly drag the life out of you on a hook.

    There’s a word for a $50 game that has less than 40 hours of play. That word is rental.

  44. dehumanized says:

    I’ve got a ridiculous backlog due to a lack of free time, too much disposable income, and a general laziness that ensures I don’t finish many of the games I buy. So, given that for like 4 out of every 5 games I buy, I’ll never see the ending (assuming one exists), if I enjoyed the time I spent with it, then it was a good value.

    I spent $5 on Red Orchestra and hated the couple matches that I played. Game was definitely not “for” me. Bad value.

    I spent $15 on Monday Night Combat, and found the game to be a lot of fun. I think I’ve only played it for maybe 7-8 hours (which is quite low for a competitive multiplayer shooter), but enjoyed every second. Good value.

    The same sort of situations applies to single player games, of course. I’m slowly working my way through Dragon Age Origins, and even if I never get around to finishing it I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of it.

  45. Mman says:

    For length a game should be as long as it needs to be, which entirely depends on the game; as it is, many are too short, and many are too long. There are also many games where length is a pretty irrelevant measure in the first place (E.G. Multiplayer and Puzzle games where length is almost entirely player controlled).

    One thing is that focus becomes more important with shorter length, and some concepts have a degree of minimum length. For instance, you can’t try and tell an epic globe-trotting plot with many locations AND provide complex level and gameplay design if you try and squeeze that into four-six hours. This is something many developers don’t seem to have really grasped yet, and they end up with games that would have been far better if they had been more modest from the start.

    I wouldn’t mind more shorter games if the prices were adjusted and we had more games with experimental concepts and/or storylines, but I know this will never happen in the “AAA” industry barring some major shake-up, and many just want to use this as a excuse to lop a couple of hours off their interactive movies where the gameplay is already perfunctory enough as it is.

  46. Sardaukar says:

    I don’t really care how long a game is, past eight-ish hours, as long as I feel like it is respecting my time. Taking an old example, Chrono Trigger was great fun and very replayable, despite being “short” by RPG standards, by feeling like an epic saga but taking less than half the time to beat as, say, Dragon Age. When an RPG has me running far back and forth, back and forth, doing dialogue fetch quests or checking every NPC to see if some new critical bit of conversation has popped up, I lose interest quickly. When a shooter pads its content by basing progress on endless waves of enemies that instantly target me over all allies while I try to reach a “stop effing spawning” waypoint (looking at you, CoD), that’s also wasting my time (which is already being wasted playing games, so that’s wasted squared!).

    That’s not to say I mind wandering around aimlessly, as long if it doesn’t feel like a chore- I’ve logged countless hours just hunting mutants in STALKER.

  47. Cheese says:

    It depends. Some games are better when the gameplay is packed into 8 hours, some do better with 50 or so hours. I got 60 or so hours out of the whole STALKER series on my first play through of it and it costed me about £20. I enjoyed all of it as well. The great thing about it, though, is that there are plenty of mods that either give a new main questline or add a new feel/challenge to the game, which can mean more than another hundred hours of gameplay, depending on how willing you are to run through it again.

    It would be amazing if a game with the length of something like Baldur’s gate were released nowadays though. I’m still gobsmacked by how long that thing is.

  48. llfoso says:

    I won’t buy a big-release game unless I can get 100 hours of play out of it.
    For cheap indie games like Magicka or something I’m happy with less.

  49. Vinraith says:

    My rule of thumb is $1 per hour of enjoyment I derive from a game, which if of course not necessarily the same as the number of hours the game takes to complete. A 100 hour game that’s fun for 10 hours is worth $10, not $100, in my book. A ten hour game that’s fun enough, and varied enough, to replay four times is worth at least $40, conversely. In general, though, if I’ve played a game on which I spent $20 for 20 hours and enjoyed myself doing it, I consider myself to have gotten my money’s worth.

    For something that’s especially fun or unusual I’m willing to let that ratio rise a bit. For example, I played Portal for about 10 hours (original play, commentary play, some custom maps) and would accept that it was probably worth $20 ($2/hour of enjoyment).

    This does go the other way, incidentally. If a game provides me with hundreds of hours of enjoyment and cost $20 (I’m looking at you, AI War) I’ll tend to find ways to give the devs more money. By no means do I make up the spread, but there’s a reason I’ve bought AI War and its expansions 3 times. Even having done that, it’s still a bargain IMO.

    It’s worth noting that my favorite games are also invariably the games I’ve played the longest and, consequently, games whose devs have something akin to a “lifetime pass” in my book for future purchases. I could buy every Bethesda game from now til the day I die and I suspect that, on the strength of thousands of hours in Morrowind alone, I’d never collectively get above the $1/hour of enjoyment mark for Bethesda games. Ditto Paradox and EU2, Arcen and AI War, Kerberos and Sword of the Stars, Arenanet and Guild Wars etc.

  50. Makariel says:

    If a game doesn’t entertain me for at least 6 hours it’s not worth full retail price. Note I wrote ‘entertain’. When I play something and it takes me 10 hours, but I feel annoyed 5 of them, it’s not worth the money. If a game would take 40 hours to finish, but it’s the same stuff I do after 38h that I did after 20 minutes already and it’s getting painful to play, it’s not worth my money.