Do big things really come in small packages in the world of gaming?
I consider myself a pretty frugal guy. I try to watch my money (although sometimes I seem to watch it just disappear), but there are a few things that I’ll splurge on. My video game hobby happens to be one of them. Now, I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of shelling out $60 a pop for every new release that hits the shelves, but I guess I can’t really complain. I mean, the price of what a new title costs now is pretty consistent with what it cost our parents twenty years ago (when they were forced to buy them for us). So in that regard, I would say we’re pretty lucky.
But now, a recent controversy has some gamers wondering if they are getting enough for their gaming dollars these days.
Before we can get to the root of just how much value we’re receiving for our game purchases, first we need to figure out exactly how much cash is going out. A report from the NPD Group stated in 2013, we spent a whopping $15.9 billion dollars on things like retail games, DLC, mobile apps and game rentals. Some might suggest this is a sign the industry is beginning to stall, as it had virtually no upward movement from the previous year (only a 1% increase from 2012). However, as insignificant as the rise might seem, profit is profit. So as you can see, there’s no shortage of support for the industry by consumers. What we are seeing, however, is a pattern of some developers starting to produce titles that are lighter on content. By their nature, mobile games are smaller more bite-sized experiences, whose prices reflect as such. Interestingly enough, we are also seeing larger, mainstream developers starting to scale back the playtime on some of their projects (touting the importance of a narrative driven, cinematic experience over length of play). As of now, it’s far from what I’d call a trend, but people did seem to react fairly negatively to the release of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (which according to some, can be blown through in one sitting).
So this got me thinking: just how important is game length in my mind?
To be honest, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, I expect to feel like I got my money’s worth. Games that are intended to run for an entire season (like MLB, Madden and even the WWE releases) are ones that I enjoy the whole year ‘round. This would also include shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty, which are intended to be played for months (if not years) at a time. On the other, if a game with a much shorter play time (let’s say something that clocks in around 12 hours) absolutely blew me away, would I really be that upset? I mean, it’s all about the experience you take away from it right? I’ve played some games which were just so-so that I couldn’t’ wait to be over. I suppose that if a developer could find a consistent way to deliver the same level of quality in a smaller package (without making me feel like I’d been ripped off), I could easily overlook it.
It all really comes back to the quality vs. quantity debate. Which is really most important? Obviously some games need to feature longer playtimes, in order to feel like a complete work (Halo, for example, would probably sufferer from a "less is more" attitude). In the end, I would tell people (especially those that flipped their shit over Metal Gear’s shorter story) to just take a breath, and think about it for a second. Ask this question: did I truly enjoy myself here? If so, the amount of time you spent playing the title (or didn’t spend in Metal Gear’s case) shouldn’t really factor in.
There’s something to be said for giving people just enough to satisfy, while leaving them wanting a bit more. Perhaps this is an art that games should strive to perfect in the future?