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GoNintendo 'EoD' thought - Destin Feature: How long is it? Why a game's length is important.

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What a crazy day today was. Nothing but trying to hunt down a silver Christmas tree. I’m not kidding…we went to over 10 places with no luck at all! We ended up with an all-white tree with pastel colored lights. It’s definitely ugly, but that’s what’s great! Hope you guys had a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to getting the work week running! See you in a few, short hours!

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When we read a review, we’re reading about game play, graphics, sound and more.  They’re meant to give the reader a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of a product.   So, should the length of a title be taken into consideration when reviewing a game?  No, but I think it’s a reasonable and important question for a consumer to ask.

When talking about a game, one of the most common questions you’ll see is “how long is it.”  While $60 isn’t much for some, others consider it an investment into a piece of entertainment.  Those people want to know how much time they’re going to get out of this investment which is why they ask.  The question they’re most likely asking themselves is, “will this game be something I can rent and finish in a few days, or is this something that I’ll keep coming back to?”

The other reason they could ask is to decide if the title is too long for their liking.  Not every player want’s to spend 120 hours saving the galaxy, leveling up a character, or exploring the ruins of Washington.  Some people just want something they can pick up and play, but not something they’ll need to commit to.

It can be argued that a video game is a piece of art that shouldn’t be subjected to such scrutiny.  That is an entirely separate argument and let’s be honest.  If we were talking bout Madden, I doubt the art argument would be coming into play.

But I understand the art argument.  Some games are art and shouldn’t be subject to penalty for being short.  People aren’t asking the question to be hostile, it’s just to gauge how this title fits into their idea of a good length.  Then they’ll decide how to approach it with their investment of both time and money.

When I talk about a product, I try to take this into consideration.  Some people just want to know that they’re going to get a game that they can love, and play for a long time.  Let’s look at some examples of games that succeed or fail in finding a good balance of length for a player.

A title like Grand Theft Auto III is a good example of perfect length.  This is a game that not only offers a decent story, but also infinite replay value.  If you want to pop it in, run over some pedestrians and then shut it off you can.  If you want to complete the campaign and find out what happens to Mr. Silent you can.  It’s a perfect balance for both groups.

Super Mario Galaxy is another great example.  You’ll never need to commit a lengthily period of time to play through a level.  A casual player can pick it up, play, and come back to it when they’re ready.  The hardcore player can pick it up, play it non-stop until they get all 120 stars, and then do it all again as Luigi.  It fits well for both demographics and a reviewer may want to give it a mention.

But then there’s games like Enslaved.  I think that it has a beautifully crafted story, but you can complete it in roughly 8 hours.  It’s difficult for me to justify purchasing a game at full price, when I can just as easily rent and complete it over a weekend.  Unlike Grand Theft Auto there’s little or no reason that you would play this a 2nd time.  You’ve experienced the story and it was great, but you’re not going to want to play it again seconds after finishing it.  In a year maybe, but by that time you’ll be able to pick it up for a significantly reduced price.  It’s a perfect example of a game that could get a 9 or a 10 for a review score, but still be recommended as a rental.  Perhaps this is an indication of how the review system is broken or flawed but I digress.

Length is an important quality to look at for a number of different reasons.  A person’s ability to commit to a title, how much return a consumer will be getting for their investment, and whether or not it fits into the players idea of perfect length.  People care about this so it’s an important aspect that deserves, at the very least, a mention.  If ignored I can guarantee you one thing.  People will seek the answer.

So how important is game length to you?  Let us know in the comments.

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