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How Long Should Games Be?

How Long Should Games Be?

This question has been asked before, but Skyrim’s release the other week – was it really 11 days ago? – has had people thinking again: how long do you expect games to be these days?

From a personal perspective I’ve pumped around 55 hours into Skyrim – all my own time, nothing work-related – and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the main campaign missions. In fact, I’ve only completed one single questline.

That’s incredible value when you look at the cost:time-put-in ratio.

But is that the only marker of value? Something like Uncharted 3 took me seven hours or so, but I wouldn’t feel jipped by putting my £30-40 (not RRP, naturally) behind that, even ignoring the multiplayer aspect. Which I probably would.

But just a couple of years ago, when it was revealed that Modern Warfare 2’s campaign clocked in at about five or six hours, people were irate. It wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t long enough. ‘We want 12 hours, no less’ they might have cried.

These days games do seem to be shorter in general and there is still outcry every now and then (especially with something like Need For Speed: The ‘Two Hour’ Run), but it’s become more accepted that games clock in at under ten hours, under eight hours, under six hours.

How long is long enough? I don’t know. I don’t want every game to last 55 hours without me actually having done 90 per cent of the game. I want that to be a treat – something once every five years. At the same time, I don’t want every £30-40 (not RRP, of course) I drop on a game to bring me a five or six hour campaign – regardless of how bombastic and Hollywoodish it is.

I don’t know what I want, truth be told. Do you?




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  • Adam

    I think it depends on the game Ian. I spent about 100 hours playing fallout: New Vegas whereas fallout 3 managed 30 max, purely based on the fact that discovering places was much more rewarding in NV.

    Another advantage of shorter games is that you can play the trade game for much higher value.

  • shaun

    I think depending on what type of game you like, driving, RPG and so on you kinda know how long the campaign will last and accept that before you even hand over your hard earned cash.

    But i also cant help but think in games like uncharted 3 that it would of been longer if there were no DLC content to come later and that maybe they hold back on content to make there DLC a viable option upon release, and i think this is happening a lot in games this generation.

    Also games like what you mentioned MW2 live only for there MP and i don’t think many people mind a short campaign when they are rewarded with months of online MP play, i think in these cases the the massive MP balances out the short campaign.

    But for the people that are not online or are not a fan of MP gaming then they are getting a raw deal, a 6 hour campaign is just not worth £40 in my eyes as you mentioned uncharted 3 and its 6 hour campaign and a mediocre MP was not worth the £40 i paid for it, with the store missing from uncharted 3’s single player that added massively to uncharted 2’s replay value made it IMHO not worth the cash.

    And its little things like that i think which make small campaigns worth it or not,
    at the end of the day i may think that U3 was not worth the money due to its small campaign but others may disagree and it boils down to what each individual expects from their games.

    But i do agree with PLAY that campaigns in games these days are getting ever smaller and developers seem to think if they dazzle us with amazing graphics we may not notice the tiny campaign,
    And i’m sure i speak for many gamer’s when i say i’d choose a longer more in depth experience over amazing graphics and 6 hour campaign, you simply cant get lost in a game that lasts as long as it takes for your coffee to cool down, i do not expect to complete my new games in one sitting.

    And what makes our demands for games to be exceptional every time? well that’s down to geniuses like Bethesda that give us both an in depth massive experience and amazing graphics along with it that sets the bar ever higher and tends to make us really look at other games and sometimes unfairly compare them to gems like Skyrim and wonder if we are getting value for money from them.

    I believe it varies from each individual person and each individual game as to whether or not a 6 hour campaign is enough.

  • You just have to get bang for your buck, as they say.

    I was really looking forward to Homefront (Red Dawn: The Game – oh yes! I’ll have some of that thank you very much), but upon discovering it was only 5 hours long, I ran off, as fast as I could.

    Mind you, Uncharted3 isn’t that much longer yet I am playing that now. So what gives? Not sure really. I suppose I could say that I am not that good at games, so what might take 7 or 8 hours for someone, might take me double, particularly when I always try to play it slowly to get the most out of it.

    Perhaps the best explanation of “how long” should be in comparison with the movies: £5 (ish) for one ticket for a 2 hour movie. £40 (ish) for one game, should equate to around 16 hours.

    Sounds reasonable, no?

  • Adam

    I wanna start using your local cinema Bluewolf, £9.80 last time i went!

    On the subject of uncharted, i replayed the second one using unlimited ammo and a sniper rifle from the store (shame on you for getting rid of that gem ND), and when i checked my stats upon completion it transpired that my total game play time for 26 hours!

    I consider myself i 3rd person RPG veteran and was suprised by that little stat, does this suggest that unless you check the game end stats or have a stop watch, that most people think they’ve taken alot less time to complete a campaign than they actually did?

  • James H

    I’m rubbish at working out how many hours I’ve spent on a game because I always lose track, but am getting close to finishing Deus Ex and I think that it’s been a pretty good length, I thought the same about Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2 as well.

    My problem with exceptionally long games (such as Skyrim), is that I just end up not buying them because, as much as I would like to sink 100 hours into the experience, I just don’t have the time that I used to to play games, plus there are so many great games out there that I want to play that I’m already looking at quite a back-log (haven’t even bought Infamous 2, U3 and Batman yet and also want to re-play/finish off a fair few other games as well). Unfortunately that means that I will miss out on what is, by all reckonings, one of the best gaming experiences of recent years.

  • Adam

    If you’re a PS3 man James then delaying any sort of attempt on Skyrim is probably advisable anyway if the glitches are as terrible as they sound….

  • Noodles Aaronson

    Usually I like to think I know the end’s in sight so titles such as Oblivion have put me off in the past because of my perception of their enormous scope. As much as I’m enjoying Mass Effect 2 at the moment there are times when I’d just like to reach the end, only for extra bits of the story to suddenly unlock themselves!

    However I’m with BlueWolf – I also equate a game’s “worth” by comparing it to something we normally stump up for but that’s completely unrelated.

    A good example to justify a game purchase is that we used to have season tickets (since binned as we were getting disenchanted!) and that mean we were effectively forking out around £30 for 90 minutes of “entertainment”. So nowadays I can quite easily justify (to myself; to my wife is a different argument…) spending £30-40 for something that’ll last only 8 to 10 hours.

    Of course a really bad example in this situation is that I can also spend a fiver on a book that’ll take me ages to get through.

  • KeeperOfTheWord

    I remember playing FFVIII for just under 300 hours.

    It was one of the best summers of my life.

  • Conor

    If a game is selling at £50 it should have 15 hours minimum length preferably with some replay value also

  • mick

    at the moment im playing skyrim and bought it on release for me this is the ultimate game i even got the game guide which is 600 pages long and ive never bought these before i really cant see how someone can complaint that a game is to long or would not get it for the same reason if you have not got time to play these games then your not a gamer