How long should a game be?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 January 2013, 3:43 am
I played 10000000 on the iPad this weekend (where it costs $2 instead of the PC version on Steam for $4), a match three puzzle dungeon running game with retro graphics. I got the required score of over ten million to reach freedom in under 5 hours. There is an endless mode after that, and on the iPad you can reset 10000000 by uninstalling and reinstalling to restart from scratch. But for all practical purposes I got a 5-hour game for $2. And I was thinking that this was good. I probably spent over $1,000 on World of Warcraft and got over 6,000 hours of /played time out of it, so WoW cost me less per hour. But then if you play a MMORPG for thousands of hours, you inevitably end up with lots of hours spent that were less than enjoyable.

In a way MMORPGs are an aberration from the norm when it comes to game length. Most PC and console games can be finished in well under 100 hours, and of the newer ones there are a lot which are just about 10 hours or so long. Of course you can play Civilization for 10 years, but how many people do that? In fact research revealed that 80% to 90% of people starting a game never even finish it once.

Unless we are prodded on by Skinner Box reward system, we tend to play a game until we get bored with it. If time to boredom is less than length of game, we stop early. If time to boredom is more than length of game, we restart. And replayability isn't always good, shortening time to boredom on the second playthrough. Even on the first playthrough, in a game with a story, we usually end up doing the same type of activity over and over, and that can well lead to boredom before the story is over. Especially in a MMORPG where the story has no end anyway, and between daily quests and repeated dungeon runs there is a lot of repetition.

Thus I appreciate the option of cheap, short games, of which there are a lot on mobile platforms like iOS or Android. Switching games frequently means less boredom from repetition. And if a game costs a few dollars, the risk of regretting the purchase is a lot lower, because there is less initial investment both in cost and in organization. Compare that to buying a new MMORPG, choosing a long-term subscription, organizing your guild to move there, only to lose interest after a few weeks.

Do we really need games that we are supposed to play for thousands of hours? Or, in a world of abundance of games, are we better off with shorter games? How long should games be in your opinion?
Tobold's Blog



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