Game Length 1

The Order: 1886 has caused a bit of a kerfuffle this weekend for supposedly being short, but how much does game length really matter? Some would argue that there's no point in spending money on a release that can be wrapped up in an evening or two, but many of us simply don't have the time to work through a 100 hour epic. It's a good debate, then, and one that we felt fitting of pitting to our esteemed editors Sammy Barker and Robert Ramsey. So, how important is game length?

Game Length 2

Less is more, reckons a time-strapped Sammy Barker

Here's a fascinating statistic for you: less than 42 per cent of people finished Mass Effect 3. Want another one? A teensy 47 per cent reached the credits in Batman: Arkham City. One more: 39 per cent of players saw the end of Lee and Clem's tale in The Walking Dead: Season One. This was all data compiled and presented at the Game Developers Conference last year, and it shows just how few people actually finish games. Remember, we're not talking Ride to Hell: Retribution here – we're discussing three critically acclaimed releases, all of which placed an enormous emphasis on their story. So, what's up?

Game length will forever be associated with game quality, but I'm not convinced that they're quite so tightly entangled. There's a backlash surrounding The Order: 1886's length today, and it won't be the first to fall foul to quantity-related criticism – but with so few of us finishing the average campaign, are we really right to request more? The word is that Ready at Dawn's forthcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive tallies around the six to ten hour mark – depending on how you enjoy it, of course – which seems short for a full-priced game. What if those are the greatest single player seconds ever crafted, though?

I can understand the scepticism: we all want value for money. Here's the problem, though: we're creating an industry that favours quantity over quality. Consider the average Ubisoft title, stacked to high heaven with pointless collectibles, meaningless fetch quests, and other such busy work – is that what we want all of our games to become? It's a fun novelty every now and then, for sure, but I certainly don't have the time, patience, or desire to invest hours into wading through the padding, and judging by the statistics above, neither does anyone else.

I thought Alien: Isolation was a good game last year, but do you know what would have made it more enjoyable? A shorter campaign. The reality is that bigger isn't always better, and with so many people failing to even reach the credits of the average game, I'm not sure why developers keep stuffing their forays full of fluff. God of War III took the average player about eight hours to complete – but would it have been better if it was triple that? No, because what you got was a well paced roller coaster ride from set-piece to set-piece; Sony Santa Monica spent its budget on making those moments truly memorable, rather than filling out the campaign with crud.

I'm not saying that it's impossible to deliver quality and quantity, but I do think that we're walking a dangerous road. If every game needs to be a 50 hour epic stuffed with side-quests and collectibles, then what will happen to the ICOs of the world? I for one can't be arsed collecting flowers from a distant forest to upgrade my damage statistics, but to each their own.

Game Length 3

Replay value is the key, comments Robert Ramsey

It's an incredibly divisive topic, but I think that the answer's always ultimately going to come down to how good the game in question is. You can complete a title like Journey in about three hours, but it'll still be a largely fantastic and engrossing experience. Meanwhile, you can spend around 100 hours with Dragon Age: Inquisition, and love every moment; if a game's built to its strengths, then it really shouldn't matter how long it is.

I think the main point of debate here is that shorter games aren't worth the money. After all, if you can spend the same amount of cash on something that's going to last you weeks at a time, why would you bother with something that'll take a couple of nights to blitz through? It's a point that, as far as I'm concerned, makes perfect logical sense, but it's still hard to deny that shorter games can be just as enjoyable.

It's a heated debate because people – as always – are so different. Some of us just don't have the time, or indeed, the patience, to slog through gigantic adventures, and that's fair enough. On the other hand, many of us will play through a shorter release once, never to touch it again, and then likely jump back into a game that we've been playing for weeks already and still haven't finished.

I reckon that it's also important to consider replay value, though, which is something that's forgotten all too often when this topic comes up. You can have a title that's only several hours long, and then extend its lifespan significantly by offering incentives to play it again, and I personally think that this is an aspect of game design that's not utilised nearly enough.

For example, new game plus options are something that always have me coming back for more. It's sometimes difficult to find the motivation to start a story all over again from the beginning, but I find it far easier when there are bonuses or unlockables waiting for me. Even slight differences to the experience can make things far more inviting, and again, replayability is something that's just not taken into account as much as it should be.

At the end of the day, it's the pacing and the quality of the game that decide whether it's branded too short or too long. For me, if a title only lasts a few hours, I'm going to want a reason to play it more than once. If it's a gigantic time investment, I want it to keep me consistently engaged. Either way, I'll more than likely feel that I've gotten my money's worth.

Which side of the game length debate do you sit on? Have you ever skipped a title just because of its length? Try not to reach the credits in the comments section below.

How important is game length to you? (128 votes)

  1. Very, I won’t pay full price for a short game27%
  2. Hmm, it really depends34%
  3. Not very, I just want an excellent experience40%

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