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Game Pass now tells you how long a game takes to beat

HowLongToBeat is finally used for good

The Xbox app now offers estimates for how long a Game Pass game might take you to beat, to help guide your decisions on what to play next. Integrating numbers from HowLongToBeat, most Game Pass games' pages now suggests how long a game is in several playstyles: finishing the main story; doing the main story and optional extras; and absolutely 100%ing everything. While I usually find talk of game length is tied into awful opinions that longer is better, I think this is great info to know on Game Pass.

Owned by mega-publisher Ziff Davis, HowLongToBeat is a crowdsourced site fed by users telling its database how many hours a game took them. It crunches these numbers to offer estimates for several playstyles, and now the Xbox app includes those numbers.

I think this is valuable info on Game Pass. While it does have a great lineup of fancy new releases, I find the service most useful for games I don't feel strongly enough about to buy but would enjoy checking out. It's a haven for good 7/10s and games someone once told they'd heard was good. I will often find myself wanting to play something new after work then ideally finish it in an evening or two. I will look at these length estimates when browsing the Game Pass catalogue.

The Game Pass store page for Chorus showing estimated times to beat it.
Estimated times for Chorus, a spaceship shooter I think is worth playing on Game Pass

I am not a fan of HLTB in general. The site says one of its purposes is to "see if a potential game purchase is worth your hard earned money" and I have often grumbled and rolled my eyes when someone pointed to it as proof that a game was bad or a rip-off or ughhhhh. Having often been so broke that I only played demos and mods, I fully understand needing to carefully manage an entertainment budget. But the 'value for money' metric grew wildly out of hand, and length somehow became a mark of quality. '£ per hour' is about the most miserable way to evaulate a video game yet I fear some are made with this in mind.

I firmly believe that most video games, movies, books, songs, plays, and everything would be better if they were 30% shorter. Many games could comfortably be 50% shorter. Some could safely cut 70%. Then without the bad stuff dragging it down, the good stuff shines more and the whole experience is better.

I find this particularly frustrating with big open-world games. The trouble with open-world mega-games where 70% is trash is that you don't know which parts will be the good 30%. I end up sifting through the dreck, emboldened but barely sustained by the occasional tasty morsel, until I decide I'm done with it—not just with the optional stuff, but with the whole damn game. I have abandoned so many critically acclaimed games for trying to waste my time with repetition, busywork, afterthoughts, and throwaway quests.

The persisting primacy of '£ per hour' feels especially weird in a golden age of broke gaming. The Epic Games Store gives away full games every week, and other stores sometimes have giveaways too. If little indies are your bag, you could be endlessly entertained exploring free games on Itch and such. And while many free-to-play games are predatory horrorshows, some great and wildly generous F2P games are out there.

I think both can be true: HLTB numbers are useful for Game Pass; and HLTB grew on daftness and has fed daftness in a tedious feedback loop.

Wednesday's Xbox app update also improved performance and stability. Microsoft say it "now launches up to 15% faster", and search results should come back "up to 20% faster". Problems with crashes or games failing to download are reduced too, and they say they've fixed some bits "for overall better responsiveness when you interact with key experiences in the app" as well

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