“Bang for your buck” is an important turn of phrase in many walks of life. If you’re going to spend money on something, you’d want the version of that something which makes the most out of every dollar. This particularly comes up in video games, because unlike books, albums, or movies, video games have a much higher upfront cost. $60 has meant different things as time has passed, but it’s still a lot of money. Therefore, a significant percentage of gamers are interested in how much they’ll be able to invest in a single game. The problem is, this has led to a lot of stifled creativity, especially in how major AAA games are structured. The idea that games need to be stuffed with things to do and “replayability” has resulted in far too much bloat and homogeny in big games.
This isn’t a new train of thought, but I found myself climbing aboard after seeing people respond to EA and Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I reviewed this game and, while I acknowledge we receive advance review copies of games with no money exchanged, I found myself enjoying the game quite a bit. After all the drama EA has been a part of, with all the lootboxes, microtransactions, season passes, and other various additional purchases, Fallen Order seemed to be what the general gaming pubic really wanted. It’s a single-player experience, with facets of skill-based combat and exploration across multiple planets in the Star Wars universe. Not once does Fallen Order advertise a single microtransaction, and it’s a good chunk of game time (around 20 hours depending on a few factors) that doesn’t rely on open world mechanics designed to pad runtime.
I figured Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's launch would be full of effusive praise. Sure, many folks out there remain suspicious of EA, but most of the boxes have been ticked here. There were and continue to be performance issues, but Respawn has been tackling them super quickly. Most critics loved the game entirely, and even those who didn’t consider it a slam dunk still got a lot out of it. It’s a good game that manages to avoid nearly every contemporary video game pitfall, save for a couple preorder bonuses. And yet, as I saw word spread of its (relatively) lower play-time, I saw a ton of people saying they wouldn't grab it until its price drops.
Now, this isn’t about gamer entitlement or something like that. I understand the need to save money and wait for games to go on sale. To be fair, big games go on sale so quickly now, it’s hard not to understand why so many fans are eager to wait, despite their excitement. But what does stand out is, despite a game like Fallen Order coming out and landing well, most of the sentiment I’ve seen has been a direct response to the game’s length.
If that’s someone’s reason for ignoring a game that is well made, full of energy, and totally eschews things that piss people off in favor of something like Assassin’s Creed: Unity, that seems like an issue. It’s no wonder so many publishers don’t see the value in single-player games versus open world messes full of premium currency, if the latter are the games getting more day one purchases. There’s a message being sent there, and it’s one that encourages the bad habits we find ourselves yelling about.
Again, this is a specific sort of context. People gotta do what they gotta do, and buying games on sale or used are practices I fully endorse. It just strikes me as weird when people with the means to make several day one game purchases, the front lines of consumer messaging, put game time as a priority above quality. Then, when something like Assassin's Creed: Unity does happen, many of those same people join the angry mobs on the internet. Personally, a game like Devil May Cry V, with its roughly eight-hour play-time, was an experience I will always remember. Meanwhile, the latest open world bloatfest that has me mindlessly chasing collectibles on a pointlessly massive map will not stick in the same way.