Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Game Length Does Not Drive A Game's Price, Ever

Image courtesy of NEOGaf.
Over the weekend, on Valentine's Day, a YouTube account leaked 16 videos that made up a complete walkthrough for Sony's newest exclusive, The Order: 1886, which will be out this Friday. The total running time for these videos combines at around 5 hours. This leak has kicked off an angry and vitriolic conversation across the web as to whether or not this game should be a full blown, $60 title. So that begs the question: Does play time really amount to the price of a game? 

Let's break this down. Since the inception of the home console, games have always been an expensive hobby. Looking at the chart below, provided by, it's easy to see that, despite the common consensus, players have been paying a pretty penny for this hobby for a long time now. And these are just console prices alone. Today, with Xbox One and PS4 only costing between $350 and $400 (depending on the current sales from retailers), the consoles themselves are easily within the spectrum of cheapest video game entertainment systems ever released when you adjust for inflation to compare accurately. 

We live in a great time to be a gamer.
Then there's the cost of the games themselves. Game releases can be broken down by cartridge and disk releases, with cartridge being the original medium of release and the use of discs starting somewhere in the middle and continuing to current day. There are plenty of great resources for information on game costs over the years, but this article from really hits the nail on the head. As you can see in the graph below, games have slowly been getting cheaper as time continues to go on. The average price for AAA, high quality games in 1996 was almost $90, and that price is NOT adjusted for inflation, That's $90 in 1996! That roughly equates to $135 today. Even in 2000 games on discs were still averaging around $70. The price of games today should be getting more expensive, especially when you take into account that the cost for developing games continues to increase year over year, but they are not. It's far cheaper today than it has been in a long time, especially for premium, AAA titles.

Online distribution will change this even more.
So we have established that games are cheaper, but what about game length? Shouldn't the $60 spent on a title equate to a certain degree of play time? Not really. In fact, game length has never equated to the cost of the game, and still shouldn't be a major factor. 

Using the wonderful website, it's easy to look into game play times for most popular games on pretty much any platform. Now, disclaimer: I do know that HowLongToBeat is a community website, which means that all of the times displayed are from average gamers who give the amount of time it took them individually to play the game, so these aren't "official" play times. But what better way to get the play time than from average gamers like ourselves? Okay, disclaimer is over. 

Let's look at games on some of the popular platforms over the years. Atari 2600 only has 32 games with times posted, but the average play time for each game is between half an hour and two hours. Adventure, the classic adventure game, can be beat in 10 minutes. E.T. is an hour long on average. Pitfall can be conquered in one and a half hours. As a matter of fact, the longest game on the list is 2 1/2 hours long. Not much game for your buck if you are rating games on length.

Image courtesy of
Moving forward in time there's the NES. Now HowLongToBeat has a much larger catalog of NES games with times available, totaling to 394 titles. Even here we can see examples of great games that we all loved only taking a few hours to beat. The original Mega Man can be beaten in roughly 3 hours. The original Super Mario Bros.? Only 1 1/2 hours to take down Bowser. The original Castlevania game has Simon taking out Dracula in roughly 3 hours. 

These are just a few of the games that released and not every game was as short as they are, with the original Legend of Zelda clocking in around 9 1/2 hours and Final Fantasy clocking in around 17 1/2 hours, but, much like today, there are different types of games with varying lengths but similar production values releasing at a similar price. 

If these examples are too far back for your taste, let's consider a few examples from today. There are plenty examples of both smaller and larger games that would "equate" to the asking price and length as The Order: 1886. Murdered: Soul Suspect from Airtight Games averages at 6 1/2 hours worth of play time and was created in very similar circumstances as The Order: 1886, with both games being created by smaller, independent studios with the help of a larger publisher (Square Enix in Murdered: Soul Suspect's case and Sony Santa Monica Studios in The Order's case). Injustice: Gods Among Us from NetherRealm Studios is also only 5 hours long and is a very well received AAA title. Even large franchises, like Sony's LittleBigPlanet have short entries, with LittleBigPlanet 3 having an average play time of 5 1/2 hours to beat the story. 

Image courtesy of Playstation.
So, is The Order: 1886 too short to cost $60? That is really up to you, the player. Are you looking for a short but strong experience for five to ten hours? Or are you looking for something to really sink into for tens of hours? Can you afford playing only a game or two a year, or do you typically buy a new game a month? These are all far more important questions than how long a game is. Obviously game length is a factor as to whether YOU should buy a game, but it should NOT be a factor on how much a game should cost. Personally, in a time where I have more money than time, a compact but high quality experience excites me more than a longer experience I may not get to finish. 

What are your thoughts? Do you still think the cost of short games is too high? Does the length of The Order: 1886 turn you off to the game? Leave some comments below or talk at me @Jesterhead0302 on Twitter. And, as always, keep the conversation going. 

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