Wolfenstein II. Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Super Mario Odyssey. All these games share at least one common factor: their October 27, 2017 release date. As big companies rush to grab release slots close to the holidays, schedules get increasingly cramped. 2016 saw Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare being released in the same two-week stretch. On the surface, this seems like a great trend for consumers: more big games equate to a larger selection of (generally) polished experiences to select from.
However, things aren’t that easy. The big problems are that time and money are finite resources. With AAA game prices exceeding $60 (if you want the “full” experience), purchasing one or two major releases in a month may be all that some are able to afford. Even if you can afford more, so many big games these days are sprawling open-world experiences offering 20+ hours of content. For most, if you’re making enough money to allow you to purchase all the new releases, chances are that you’re working so often that play time is limited.
Here’s an example: Destiny 2 released on PC on the October 24, 2017, followed by the three aforementioned games on October 27, 2017. According to How Long to Beat, the “Main + Extra” time to complete Destiny 2 is 20.5 hours; let’s assume that’s about how long a first-time player will take to see what they deem to be the “full game”. Now, suppose the same player wants to pick up Assassin’s Creed: Origins. As mentioned in our review, it is a full experience that offers campaign and post-game content. It would probably take about 50 hours to come close to beating it. Even halving that time down to 25 hours (for someone who’s not hunting around for every last thing) gives a total of 45.5 hours between the two games.
After considering a need to eat and get a reasonable amount of sleep, let’s assume that a full-time worker gets around 4-5 hours of gaming per night. By that metric, it would take them around 10 days to go through both games. Not too bad, right? What about the rest of life, though? People have appointments, family events, partners, and children; free time to game can easily be cut in half by such things. As the “time to beat” bloats to 15 or 20 days, we start running into more problems.
Call of Duty: WWII had a November 3, 2017 release date. Star Wars Battlefront II hit on the November 17, 2017. Suddenly, the pressure’s on to power through games simply to get them out of one’s backlog. Even then, this is just a small sampling of big releases. Dozens of games are released daily; hundreds come out weekly. For the few who can even financially afford to acquire the majority of them, the time available to play can rapidly dwindle.
This also discourages “game attachment”. What if you play Assassin’s Creed: Origins for 25 hours, completely fall in love with it, and want to play it for another 25? Better hope you don’t have anything else waiting in your backlog. In a way, we’re encouraged to play games, love them, and then immediately discard them once something new comes along.
Understandably, be it due to financial or chronological limitations, many won’t want to have anything to do with this. It can often be far more beneficial to choose one or two games as “mainliners” and leave it at that. Of course, games companies see this and try to artificially bloat playtimes so that gamers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Maybe it’s by stuffing open worlds with hours of meaningless content, but more likely it’s season passes and other pieces of DLC that claim to extend the life of the game; whether they actually do is another question.
I’m all for consumer choice, and I love the fact that the video games industry is frequently more than happy to oblige. The three big releases from October 27, 2017 have all been met with large amounts of praise, suggesting that most players will to have a good time, regardless of which one(s) they pick up. However, in an age where companies will constantly pull the “games are expensive to make” card when justifying loot boxes and other questionable practices, it’s easy to wonder if there might be a better way. I don’t know about you, but I like to play the games that are coming out; not just admire them in storefronts and my library. If game releases were more spread out, it’s likely that the big games would see even larger returns, and many smaller games wouldn’t fly under the radar so easily. Besides, aren’t we all sick of each November being “shooter month”?