Game Length vs. Price: Does it Matter?

If you don’t follow Platinum Games’ Hideki Kamiya on Twitter, you would have missed a particular statement he made in the past few days.(and if you’re not following him, go do that!) His statement was as follows:

“If u hate to finish a game the next day u buy it, u better not play TW101. I focus on how it is fun, not how long it lasts till the ending.”

The game he was referring to is Platinum’s upcoming The Wonderful 101 on Wii U. People immediately jumped up and started yelling about the game and that it’s going to be short and not worth their time and money. Later on, another Platinum Games alumni, Atsushi Inaba, came out and clarified Kamiya’s statements, but it got me thinking. Does it really matter if a game is short if it’s incredibly fun?

Platinum Games’ new title The Wonderful 101, a game about superheroes fighting aliens!

For me personally, it doesn’t really impact my opinion of the game. If I finish a game quickly, but enjoy every minute of it, what’s there to complain about? If the game is padded out just to make it longer and isn’t fun all the way through, then I have a problem. I feel a lot of games these days have this problem, artificially extending the length of the game just to make it feel like it was worth the money you paid for it, but ultimately with most of these games, it just feels bloated and lends itself to complaints. Why do it though? Are developers and publishers afraid that people would hate a game just because it’s a bit shorter? What would you rather want to hear about a game; “It was short but every second is fun and enjoyable”? or “With a decent length to it it is fun, but some moments just feel slapped in for no reason”? Both have their negative points, but one turns the negative into a positive.

Some of my favourite games are short games, but reward you with multiple playthroughs and encourage you to do so, and even on the 3rd or 4th time through they’re still enjoyable to play. MadWorld, Metal Gear Rising and Portal are some of these examples. They’re games you can ultimately finish in only 2-5 hours but their rewarding gameplay and entertainment value make it a non-issue. I really don’t see the negative to the shorter games when it is a genuine blast to play them. And while I do enjoy games that take hours and hours to complete and they do have their own space in the market, I do tend to enjoy these shorter games more.

The first Portal was 2-3 hours long, but the story, gameplay and puzzles kept people coming back for more.

I think in the end, what annoys people the most about short games is when they spend upward of $80 on a product, expecting to get a lot of time out of that purchase, only to finish it’s story a day or two later. Their complaints are perfectly valid, but I feel that these people may miss a lot of the meat that comes with these shorter games. Take MGR: Revengeance for example. It’s a short story, taking about 5-6 hours to beat and once you’re done, you could easily just move on to the next game. Or, you could replay the game on a harder difficulty, go back and collect all the data, VR Missions, and weapon upgrades, taking you well into the tens of hours to complete. Most of these short games are built for multiple replays and that justifies that dollar amount.

In the end though, these are my thoughts and views on the matter. While I say one thing, someone else can be totally correct in thinking I’m wrong and have their own thoughts. But what I want to know from you all is whether or not you think it matters? Does a game’s price have to coincide with it’s length? Is it all about the fun? Does any of it really matter in the end?

2 comments

  1. A too-short game is still better than a too-long game. (Worse still is The Force Unleashed II, which managed to feel both too long and ridiculously short at the same time :P)

    Artificial padding, dragging storylines or unfair difficulty spikes are lousy ways to make a game last longer, and ultimately deduct much enjoyment from the overall experience.

    But on the flip side, if you’ve made a game that only takes 4 hours to beat and you’re charging $80 for it, there needs to be some replay value before I’ll plonk down my cash.

  2. Length does determine value in my mind, but I have know idea where the ‘line’ between the two is.

    One would like to think that a longer game warrants a higher price, as modellers and writers and so forth have to make more stuff. But that’s not always the case, as things can indeed be padded. Mind you, even the most padded game might have a brilliant pay-off at the end.

    For all their flaws, I think this is where achievements are useful. They allow developers to explicitly state; ‘here is this extra thing you can do if you want, but it’s purely numerical and doesn’t add to the game.’

    I think it is more about your own judgement. If you know the type of gamer you are, you know you’ll go for longer games, or shorter games, or when you’ll prefer a certain length. That should be a help when deciding if a short game is worth your dosh.

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