Are AAA games starting to get too long?

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bigsocrates

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Poll Are AAA games starting to get too long? (322 votes)

Most games are too long. I don't have time for all this padding, just get to the point! 22%
If I'm loving a game I don't mind if it's long but lots of games don't justify their length. 42%
Some games are too long, some aren't. It all depends, but I haven't noticed an issue. 27%
I wish most games were longer. 5%
No game is too long! I want to buy one game and play it forever. 1%
This poll is too long! Just show me the answers. 4%

After finishing The Last of Us Part II, a game where I think the true horror comes from how long and repetitive it is at times (there are two separate sequences where you play fetch with a dog! In a game that already feels padded!) I started to think about AAA games and length. In the 7th generation it was kind of cliche that most "AAA" games had an 8-12 hour campaign and then some kind of multiplayer. In the 8th generation that multiplayer aspect became less common (which is a good thing, because not every game needs multiplayer) but the average length of many campaigns started creeping up. Now I feel like the standard length of a AAA game is closer to 20 hours than 10, with some exceptions for franchises that are still multiplayer focused like Call of Duty or whatever.

I feel like a lot of games don't do enough either mechanically or in terms of story to justify this increased length. It's one thing to have a game be 20 hours long with constant new areas, mechanics, and story, and another to have that length stretched out through repetition. We're all familiar with the issues of open world bloat, and how open world games can wear out their welcome through repetition, but I think that's starting to happen in linear games too. Maybe it's just the specific games I'm playing, but I can't think of a AAA game I've played in the last few years that couldn't be improved by cutting out about 25% of it and making it a more focused experience*. We all have limited time for gaming, and having to slog through a bunch of samey encounters and environments just to get to the end of a game does not make for a better time.

The Last of Us Part II felt about 5-10 hours too long to me, and while it didn't ruin the experience it did take away from it. There's a point near the end where there's a pause in the horror and violence before the actual end of the game, and I kept shouting at the TV "Just end already, please don't make me do more of this boring, boring stuff." I don't think that was the intended impact of that sequence.

Obviously we all want to get our money's worth from games, and value is important, but games are cheaper than ever. With things like Xbox Game Pass and Sony/Steam/Epic's insane sales most of us have more games than we could ever hope to play in our lifetimes. Most games depreciate in price incredibly quickly, and can be gotten for half off or more within 6 months of release. And padding doesn't really equal value. I'd much rather have stuff like a good New Game Plus or the old God of War games' costume systems that encourage you to play through a game again rather than long stretches of repetition.

There have always been long video games, of course, but I feel like it's almost an epidemic at this point. Not every game has to be 8 hours long, but if they're going to be 25 then that needs to be justified. I'd rather a game be short and sweet and leave me wanting more than long and drawn our and leave me exhausted and irritated by the end.

What do others think?

*God of War 2018 may be an exception here. It's a 20 hour game but it's constantly throwing new stuff at you and has so much companion dialog that I don't think I ever got bored or fatigued playing it. Still, it's like twice as long as God of War III.

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Daiphyer

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Definitely.

I used to have OCD about finishing games, even if I was finished with that game way before the game itself was finished. But as I've gotten older and have way less time to play video games, I've come to peace with letting games go unfinished, once I've had my fill of it.

Like, recently, I started Sunset Overdrive. At first, I was psyched cause it looked like my kind of game. However, around 8-9 hours in, the "attitude" started wearing on me, and I had gotten my fill of grinding and shooting (unsatisfying) guns. So, while the game itself was "good" I was done with it because I felt like, "Alright, I get it. Let's move on."

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sammo21

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Like some others have said, I think it is a matter of context but I would agree that open world games seem to be the biggest offender. I am sure its a mix of "we have all this space, we have to do something with it" and thinking that fans will get angry if that stuff isn't there. Seeing that TLOU2 is around 25 hours is baffling to me for a myriad of reasons. I am normally happy if I get around 12-15 hours out of a story campaign. That said, I found God of War to be a great length as I feel you can beat that game in like 25 hours and have another 10'ish hours to get all the collectables, side missions ,etc.

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Shindig

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Looking at my backlog, I don't think they truly have. The games I've got that push 20+ hours all seem to be RPGS. In any case, the pinch of modern life means I'm still looking for ways to blast through games. I finish way more than I did as a kid but it's partly down to taking easy difficulties or, in the case of the older games, cheating.

I buy a lot less now with time being so short.

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stinger061

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A couple of years ago I found myself getting annoyed with certain games for being too long but I've taken a step back and realised for me the problem was I was always wanting to get a game finished and move onto the next one, which is a great way of not really enjoying anything. I made an active decision to buy fewer games and spent a ton of time playing more open ended games like Fortnite, Warframe and PUBG as well as spending more time with the story based games I was playing and overall just enjoyed my game playing time a whole lot more.

It's interesting how games that are specifically story based are the ones which receive criticism for length while the stuff without a defined end point has thrived. Battle Passes and seasonal based games I guess give some new content on a regular basis but it's mostly still the same mechanics which people don't seem to hate as much as repeated mechanics in story focussed games.

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Fluidk

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I think the problem is the idea that ”game length” should be a discernible factor. When I was growing up, CHALLENGE dictated pacing and time-to-completion. I think that’s the way games should be. The idea that every game has a predetermined length, like a film, is the encroaching “cinematic” element of movies into games that are ruining them.

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SuperKMx

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Yes, in general. But it all depends on how or why the game is as long as it is. A 40-hour game that is genuinely entertaining for a large percentage of the time is fine by me. A 20-hour game that consists of 80% cutscenes and semi-open-world roaming with repetitive sidequests and basic resource collection is too long.

That counts double when there is just so much choice for your gaming buck, these days. I can play through or audition a bunch of indie, retro, or just plain smaller titles in the same amount of time and spend way less money than the price of the latest 50-hour AAA epic.

But then again, the audience drives the content. Every review of a good-to-excellent 8-hour game has swathes of comments about "value for money" or "I'll wait for a sale because I can't justify $60 for only 8 hours of play" from the same people who will spend $30-45 on a 4k Blu-ray movie that will last for two hours and that they'll only watch once. Large portions of the gaming press started pushing a "longer game = better and more valuable game" narrative back around the PS2 era, and audiences are just conditioned to think that way, now.

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someoneproud

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I like a long game if it can be entertaining throughout but there are definitely games that would benefit from trimming out some of the repetition. Mafia III could've been great if they got rid of maybe 75% of the samey takeover missions and collectibles and AC Odyssey would greatly benefit from being shortened/unbiggened.

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Sombre

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I dont think I've beat a game longer than 10 hours in the last 10 years. I have a life outside of gaming.

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Ry_Ry

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I like games that have the option for multiple campaigns. Resident Evil 2 Remake, Fire Emblem Three Houses, etc. Lets me enjoy a story and move on.

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BladeOfCreation

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Careful, duders. You wouldn't want Troy Baker to see this thread.

https://twitter.com/TroyBakerVA/status/1277353529791770624?s=19

Yeah, some games are too long. Some have a really good narrative that could easily stand to lose a few traversal puzzles, fetch quests, or obligatory break-out-of-prison sequences.

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electricbarrier

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I routinely play games that are 50+ hours long, and usually play at least one 100~ hour long game a year. I just got done playing Persona 5 Royal, which took 135 hours. So, if AAA games got longer, that would actually make me more interested in them. 60 bucks for 10~ hours is a bit steep.

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north6

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Careful, duders. You wouldn't want Troy Baker to see this thread.

https://twitter.com/TroyBakerVA/status/1277353529791770624?s=19

Yeah, some games are too long. Some have a really good narrative that could easily stand to lose a few traversal puzzles, fetch quests, or obligatory break-out-of-prison sequences.

I have to imagine he is being facetious, but I can't imagine a world where I follow a voice actor on twitter, so I guess I'll never know.

That said, it feels silly to try to dictate game length to a game dev, they should make whatever they want, whatever best fits the bill of their vision... oh fuck, I think I just agreed with Troy Baker.

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north6

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#63  Edited By north6
@someoneproud said:

I like a long game if it can be entertaining throughout but there are definitely games that would benefit from trimming out some of the repetition. Mafia III could've been great if they got rid of maybe 75% of the samey takeover missions and collectibles and AC Odyssey would greatly benefit from being shortened/unbiggened.

Yeah, I think I can get down with this as a generalization. Just about every open world, or recent JRPG (DQ, all of the xenoblades) games can benefit from being much, much shorter, and more effort put into the quests. That's about the only sweeping statement I can make though, as I'd prefer certain things like FF7R were longer. Certain games feel like they are ending just as they get going, and it's never the ones you want.

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someoneproud

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@north6: Yeah, I'd say open world games are the worst offenders for me, so much of the side content is just an un-fun waste of time these days. My compulsion to do everything and hit every marker doesn't help but I often find myself wishing a large portion of that stuff just wasn't there.

That's definitely the case with the side stuff in XC/XC2 too. Even though I love XC dearly, replaying it recently also left me feeling like the areas were much bigger than they needed to be and mostly just delayed getting to the next story beat which is undoubtedly the main draw.

When I really love a game (usually because of the World/Characters) I don't want it to end, even after spending 100+ hours in Witcher 3/Persona 4/Persona 5 I still wasn't ready to leave them behind when the time came. I expect a part of that for me is that almost all the content in those games is either compelling or adds to the gameplay/progression in substantial ways, so it rarely feels like a chore. Those games are so rare for me though and a lot of games end up overstaying their welcome to some degree.

FF7R being the first part of a familiar story definitely left me wanting a story continuation but I wouldn't want the story it had to be stretched out more. I'd have been happy with more character driven side stuff like the Jessie trip but another Hojo's lab would've killed it for me (I'd 100% cut the one we got tbh)

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Tom_Scherschel

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@bigsocrates: I agree with your general point (can't comment on Last of Us II, I'm only 15 hours in). I felt the same way about Final Fantasy VII Remake, Doom Eternal, and Death Stranding.

If you look at achievement/trophy data, the majority of players do not get past the halfway point in most AAA games. For all the time and money spent developing these long games, half the people buying them never see most of it. I've wondered lately why they keep making games so long, then? Do they have market research that says people are more likely to buy a game if it is over so many hours long?

God of War is an interesting example, because that never felt long to me. I think in that instance it had a very good story and in between story bits it had excellent, challenging combat and quite a bit of spectacle. So far, Last of Us Part II just has the story (which 15 hours in and another 10 or so to go already feels stretched).

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zoofame

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I think finaldasa is on the right track. This seems like a bigger issue with movie / spectacle games that lean heavily on linear storytelling or set pieces with a lot of production. That's probably why a lot of Sony exclusives are coming up in discussion.

Games like Hitman don't have this problem because you can choose how deep you want to get into the mechanics to complete all the challenges. If you want to blast through each map you can totally do that. If you want to learn all the nooks and crannies of each map, chart out all the AI patterns, and unlock all the tools you can do that, too. But a narrative game has the expectation that you want to see the conclusion. Meanwhile people put 1000 hours into Destiny or Siege and complain about a lack of content.

Part of it is the business model. The industry has consolidated to a handful of publishers who report to shareholders. They're heavily skewed toward making a few extremely big bets per generation. Instead of spreading out the risk to a bunch of smaller titles, they're piling on studios into creating assets for one big release and padding out content that can be worked on in parallel. Sheer content is a problem you can solve by adding more people. Solid, compelling writing is much more difficult to accomplish from a logistical perspective. Also it's just so much more profitable to make an exploitative free-to-play mobile game or online multiplayer casino.

The bigger issue I'm noticing after watching all the old E3 talkovers is a lack of AAA games in general. The E3 announcements in 2016 were the last big push when most publishers were firing on all cylinders. Starting in 2017 we've been seeing fewer and fewer new games. It's mostly DLC, a reminder that a game is coming in the next 2 years, or just name-dropping a franchise with some empty rhetoric about how excited the devs are for something 4+ years away. 2018 was a ghost town. 2019 was a year of delays to 2020. This year is almost completely devoid of anything to look forward to in the next year. And judging from the last hardware release cycle it's going to be pretty lean for the next 3-4 years as studios reload. Probably a ton of remakes of games that aren't old enough or have already been remade multiple times already.

To the point about TV, I totally agree that having a completely written and fleshed out story before production is what makes all the difference regardless of length.

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ThePanzini

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#67  Edited By ThePanzini

@tom_scherschel: Game length seems to have no barring on weather or not people actually finish a game, the Walking Dead for example is a very short easy game with episodes lasting a few hours at most. Only 76% of players finished episode one, the season is only 10 hours long yet only 60% finished season. Tons of short games have awful finish rates.

Persona 5 34%, Death Stranding 29%, FF7 52%, Control 24% - These are completion stats for a few games Persona, DS and FF7 are really long just mainling FF7 is 30 hours yet Control a pretty short game ~15 hours has a much worse completion rate.

Plenty of really long games have really good finish rates like the souls series or jrpg's.

And that is if players can be bothered to even start the game the first Watch Dogs has a trophy for simply watching a 2min prologue video. Watch Dogs sold 10m 98% got the first trophy 200k couldn't sit for 2min and push A.