A short call for shorter experiences
Video games are getting too long.
With an eternal debate raging about the "value" of games (hours played vs. money spent), developers have found ways to inflate games into 100-120 hour affairs.
I have a similar problem, having stretched several articles on our site into 1700+ word epics.
So today, without eclipsing 400 words, I'm making the case (particularly to AAA developers) to make more short games.
Some of us are lucky and can spend our days playing huge chunky releases for as long as humanly possible. But the majority of players have a lot going on. Parents, students, employees. There's only so much time in the day to dedicate to games.
According to the 2021 State of Online Gaming report, gamers on average currently spend 8 hours 27 minutes per week playing games, up 14% from 2020. Using AAA darling Assassin's Creed Valhalla as an example, the average gamer would need 10 1/2 weeks to get through its main campaign and a few of its side quests, according to the average "Main+Extras" playthrough on HowLongtoBeat (HLTB).
That's... too much. Triple-A development has become a race for "living games" that steal your attention away from the competition all year long. Rather than letting folks sample at the buffet, these games are the only meal you've got for weeks, and it very well could spoil before you're able to finish it.
Weirdly enough, according to HLTB, games on average are shorter than ever. In 2011, average game length was 18 hours 10 minutes. In 2020, it's shaved down to 16 hours 54 minutes.
The difference? With 1,300 more releases logged in HLTB's database for 2020 than for 2011, indie developers are leading the way, changing the gaming landscape with bite-sized meaningful experiences.
Games like Before Your Eyes, Assemble with Care, and Little Nightmares have shown us that experiences just a few hours long can deliver lifelong memories. Ask me my favorite Valhalla side quests and I'd have to give it a good think. Ask me about Before Your Eyes and I can go on for hours about its emotional impact.
The change is happening but it needs to spread to the big companies faster. There's a place for longer games — you might remember we loved Valhalla when all was said and done — but I'd gladly take 100 impactful one-hour experiences before I played another one of those.