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Let’s have a chat about gameplay length in Triple-A titles

With the release of The Order 1886 coming up, and the semi-furor about the length of the game kicking up this past week, the BG team had a little chat about the subject. And it’s not nearly as cut and dry as you might think.

Now, I’m actually of the school that games are a little too long in general these days. Sure cramming a hundred hours of content into a grand adventure like The Witcher 3 might be awesome for those who have the time to truly explore and dig into the story, but for a good chunk of the populace out there, there’s just no way they’ll be able to play through all of that. They might not even be able to play through the campaign itself and beat the game!

I know for me, the chances I’ve gotten to play anything that I’m not playing for review has steadily gone down, down, down in the last decade – life will do that as work, family, and other responsibilities come into play and interfere in play time. Contrasted against a movie that takes 2-3 hours to watch, or a TV show that take at most an hour (or 45mins on demand), a game -especially a triple-A game that has loads of content- is just too demanding of that one resource that’s way too finite.

Still though, there are some that think the opposite. There are plenty of gamers out there who think that a game is not really a ‘game’ if it doesn’t clock in at a certain number of playable hours. So with all this in mind, we had a little group discussion on the BG forums.

Presented here in its entirety, and with limited edits, are our thoughts (which disintegrate into a conversation about Ryu from Street Fighter, Elvis, and… Clayfighter – you’ve been warned). Read, contemplate, comment; we’d love to hear your take!


Richard (Xbox Editor) This whole length of gameplay as it relates to the overall rating of a game has me in an uproar. I firmly believe games should be at least 8-10 hours, otherwise, just make a CGI movie, it would be a lot less expensive. Regardless of how amazing the story is, if the game is too short I feel slighted. ‪#‎my2cents‬ ‪#‎arantadaykeepsthetrollsinplay‬

Daniel (Canadian Staff Writer) what about games that are short on purpose? Flower, Journey, etc?

Daniel Even most roguelikes only provide a few hours.

Richard OK, I should add, any triple AAA game that is less than 8-10 hours is stealing. I understand smaller developers make smaller games, which is great. I love playing short games as long as I don’t have to play $60 for them.

Daniel what about AAA single player experiences in things like COD? those only clock in at 4-5 hours. also taking into account speedrunners who show just HOW quick (tool assisted or not) games can be finished. It’s all relative.

But Devil’s Advocate aside, you’re 100% on the money, and that’s the crux of it: money. Publishers and Developers are putting out less and less and charging more and more. I still remember when a AAA pc game was $20, $25 or $30 for the special edition with the included cloth maps and so forth.

Richard And I should also add, games like Destiny or COD, have short stories but have a ton of additional content which pushes them over that 10 hour breaking point. For example, I have played an ungodly number of hours on Destiny, and I LOVE it. The story is what it is, but for me, the real enjoyment comes from playing the endless hours of end-game material with my buddies. So while The Order may have the best aesthetics and an amazing story, what is there to do after the game ends?

Daniel replay it? self-induced challenge modes?

Daniel I’d love to find a game that is super short, but the more you replay it, the more that gets unlocked or added.

Daniel Like Prestiging in COD, but instead of a new icon and some weapon skins or whatever, you get new chunks of gameplay or new mechanics or something.

Richard Maybe it is just me, but unless I fracking love a game, I won’t be replaying it for the sake of replaying.

Now what will be great is if Ready at Dawn releases some new “gameplay” modes after launch as DLC. Oh what a great news day that would be!!!! My fingers are crossed.

Daniel Maybe a game where you’re stuck in a never ending dream, and each time the dream finishes and restarts, you gain something new or a new path or something.

Daniel But why DLC? why not just a free update?

Jason (Editor-in-Chief) I totally see your point Richard, but I think if games want to truly provide an experience that’ll rival the movie industry in terms of audience size they need to be shorter and cheaper. Think $30-40 and about 4-5 hours.

Though I do have to agree with you; I never replay games either.

Richard Daniel, I am all for free updates but most times with the bigger companies don’t do that, and we all know that. If RAD can do free updates to add content, my hats off to them.

Eric (Contributing Writer) I’ve done my share already on talking about this in other places so I’ll try to summarize.

The idea that games should have some mythical hour requirement for gameplay actively holds back the medium. People are acting right now like a game is only a game if it checks off certain requirements. Except with that 8-10 hour requirement, many amazing games wouldn’t exist. Journey, Ico, many fighting games, Uncharted, the list goes on.

If we want games to be considered art, we can’t impose arbitrary restrictions.

That’s like saying a song isn’t music because it’s too short, or a painting isn’t a painting because it’s on too small a canvas.

Daniel Jason, I replay games like I rewatch movies. Richard, as per the article recently posted about Apple’s ‘NEW’ pay once and play initiative, I really truly believe greed has not only won out, but has solidified it’s place. DLC wasn’t a thing until companies realized that they could sell horse armor in a single player game and people would pay $5 for that.

Daniel And then BOOM now we’re getting DAY 1 DLC (which means they’ve cut out a portion of the game to sell to you for more money).

Richard Jason, I completely agree with your statement. I wonder if we could see a division of smaller games with less content versus bigger games with more content. Not so much in the sense of an indie game vs AAA game, but a AAA studio working on a smaller iteration of a title.

I think it would be beneficial to some studios, Ubisoft….cough cough…

Plus, the public still gets to experience the stories without all the extra crap added to just make the game longer.

Richard I don’t mind DLC, but I also thought DLC should add additional content to a game or start a new story. Not add worthless crap like horse armor or fancy new pants. Hell, we all work everyday to buy clothes in real life, why would I want to waste money on virtual pants.

Jake (US Staff Writer) While I personally love short games (in the 6-9 hour range), I would never pay full price for one. I mean, Max Payne 3, one of my favorite games of all time, super short game. I’ve never bought it, only rented it a few times, either two or three. It seems to me to be a bad business choice to create shorter games. *However* it is also a bad business choice to pad a game with needless, unrelated, and boring content.

Daniel or to strip a game of good bits, and sell those bits for extra on top of the $60

Daniel Case in point: Starcraft 1 was $20-25 when it first came out. Brood war was the equivalent of modern day DLC, but was released as an …ancient word here…EXPANSION….for $15.

Richard I like what Gearbox did with BL2, they added a lot of content that kept the game going. There brand new areas added fresh content to the game and extended gameplay.

WB Interactive has done an OK job of DLC for the Arkham series, although a majority of it seems to be cosmetic. Plus, I don’t count Origins as an entry in the game….MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHa….

Daniel IMO the modern DLC practices should stop, because it’s abusive towards games, and it is a detriment to the ‘games are also or can be art’ because like that meme thats floating around of the Mona Lisa if it was treated as a video game, you’re destroying those discrete experiences for the sake of charging an extra dollar.

Pick a game with a ton of DLC, lets say any AC with their multitude of DLCS. Imagine if ALL of the DLC was offered in 1 package, given a full new story to go with it and tie it all together, and was offered as an entirely separate piece? That’s called an expansion. If you were thinking “Season Pass” you need a kick in the nads, because the game companies (devs and pubs) have your nads so firmly in the vice of greed you can’t think straight.

Daniel Some companies do this well. Gearbox with the DnD inspired DLC, that’s what DLC SHOULD BE. A whole experience, not this single new mission and a few new weapons bullshit.

Jason YES expansion packs. Bought a ton of them back in the 90s Daniel. And I see where you’re going Richard, with the two ‘levels’ of games, and I agree to a degree. I’d like to see that.

The only problem there is that, if you have a triple a blockbuster and you release it at 10-15 hours of gameplay (not extra content but campaign) then you’d be locking out a tremendous sector of the audience. And I don’t mean just those who wouldn’t buy a game at that length, but those who wouldn’t have the time to play all the way through the campaign and beat it.

Jake On the topic of dlc, I would be fine with it if it had more substance. Skins and such are fine…I guess, but if they want to charge 2, or sometimes 3, dollars, then along with the cosmetic changes they need to add some changes to gameplay.

For example, I’m fine with the nintendo costume dlc in Bayonetta two because they actually change gameplay. Not a whole lot but enough that it doesn’t bother me.

Now compare that to the dlc in the once-beloved saints row series, they have a dlc which you must buy in order to use cheat codes. Which imho is a stupid choice.

Daniel The only time I honestly see cosmetics as a viable or sensible DLC is for stuff that otherwise doesn’t do DLC . Like fighting games. You want to pay 1.59 for Ryu to be dressed like Elvis? Go nuts.

Daniel That said, cosmetics and customization is perhaps the single biggest and easiest moneymaker in games.

Jason That’s true Jake, but Daniel has a point in that you don’t have to pay for it if you don’t want it. Also, as far as expansion packs, thy used to be like a whole new game for around $15. Love to see that business model return.

Richard Sadly, I think I would pay 1.59 to play as Ryu dress as Elvis. I would love if the gaming companies brought back expansions.

Jake Personally the best dlc I’ve seen in recent years is Far Cry: Blood Dragon. THAT was, I think as close as we will ever get to bringing back the old days of expansion packs.

Jason Yeah could be. Damn, now I really want to play SF as Ryu dressed as Elvis.

Richard Jason, do you remember Clayfighter on SNES? Elvis was a playable character in that game.

Jason I do Richard!! Loved that game, might have to bust it out again. And Daniel, if I could like that last comment twice I would.

Daniel Idea for a feature: screenshot these discussions. Exactly as they are. I always felt that the comedy and fun of a messaged conversation would look good and be fun to read for other people.

Richard Does it get any better than this?

Jason Was JUST about to ask if anyone had an issue with that or wanted to add something.

Jason Awesome lol

Richard Probably should have read your comment Daniel before posting a Clayfighter trailer.

Daniel And since you’re all so curious, here’s the following things Ryu can play dressup as: A Wolf Furry, A Beach Bro, and A Member of Pokemon’s Team Aqua.

Jason Actually I like the trailer – let’s keep it in!!

Jason Fun way to end it!

Daniel And a Ken skin as Ryu.


Daniel Mr Frosty’s bio made me spit up my coffee: Likes: Pizza. Hates: Fire Clay type: O-, Sex: Clay, Married: No.

Jason Fire bad!!!!

Richard Let’s edit all this Ryu’s DLC costumes out. I don’t want CAPCOM getting all these great marketing ideas for free.

About Jason

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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