Are Games Too Long and Too Difficult?


John Davison, makes the case that games are too big and too hard. He makes his point very well, but he is wrong.

… They measure the time we play, they watch where we get stuck, and they broadcast our behavior back to the people that make the games so they can tune the experience accordingly.

Every studio I’ve spoken to that does this, to a fault, says that many of the games they’ve released are far too big and far too hard for most players’ behavior. As a general rule, less than five percent of a game’s audience plays a title through to completion. I’ve had several studios tell me that their general observation is that “more than 90 percent” of a games audience will play it for “just four or five hours.

If all of your play testing metrics are telling you that your short and easy game needs to be even shorter and easier, maybe the better interpretation is that your game just isn’t fun and you should make something different that people actually want to play?

When a game isn’t fun, it’s like a chore. The shorter, easier, and the quicker people can get it over with, the better. When the player loves the game and is immersed in the experience, they want to spend more time with it, and add more challenge, depth, and compexity to it.

Look at some of the most popular games in terms of actual human play time: World of Warcraft, tower defense games, competitive multiplayer shooters, addicting puzzle games, and Pokemon/Monster Hunter style RPGs.

Those are probably the longest and most challenging games on the market. Could you take Tetris or a successful tower defense game and make it more popular by making it easy? Of course not. Would World of Warcraft or Call of Duty be more popular if it didn’t last so long? That’s ridiculous.

Rather than making mediocre games shorter and easier, developers should be trying to make games that players actually want to play more of.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Oly1Kenobi on May 14th, 2010 [ 131925 Points ]

    I honestly rarely play most games to completion… the reason is that my game time is limited sometimes due to work, kids, i have a rl, a new game is out… etc… But… The fact is I’d rather not finish the game and know that there is more content there if and when I want to get back to playing it. Most games that I like the best, are open world, endless type games. Just Cause two can be completed as far as the story goes pretty quick, however you can also play the game for literal days and not complete any of the main story if you want. Fallout 3 and Borderlands are other examples. Games you can play thru and pass in 4 to 5 hours are the ones that gamestores are filled with used copies of.

  2. #2 by Mike on May 14th, 2010

    Oh great, here come more six hour games! Here is a better idea: make your games worth playing for more than a few hours!

    In other words, I agree with your article completely. Davison has gone mental from fawning over too many lousy iPhone games.

  3. #3 by Jay on May 14th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    lol, I think some of the shorter games from back in the NES/SNES/Genesis days were harder, mostly because you had to play through completion on one sitting, and a lot of them didn’t have continues and unlimited lives

  4. #4 by Smegmazor on May 14th, 2010

    This John Davison guy sounds like a retard looking to take the easy way out. I hate short games. On top of that, I hate short games that F’n suck.

    Darrin, you hit it on the head about maybe these games are just not fun. Since the launch of the PS3 I must have gone through 20 titles that I traded in a couple of days after purchasing them because they were terrible. Of course, there were a lot of games that I enjoyed- some long, some short- but for this Davison character to be oblivious of all the crappy games on the market and blame it on us, the consumer, is quite ridiculous.

  5. #5 by EdEN on May 14th, 2010 [ 136079 Points ]

    Game time does get reduced with every year that goes since work and family take a great part in my schedule. I tend to favor games that are 10-20 hours nowadays against those that need over 50+.

    And being a Trophy hound makes things ooooh so difficult sometimes…

  6. #6 by Macdory on May 14th, 2010 [ 3435 Points ]

    This is a joke – right?

    I miss the likes of Baldurs Gate 1 & 2, Planescape Torment, etc – not only were they long games, but they were engaging throughout, and difficult when difficulty settings actually did what they said. Unlike the likes of FF 13, which is just long and drawn out and not all that interesting.

    Most games take around 10-15 hours to finish now, and most can be completed by mashing the “I Win” button over and over …

    I think the main problem now is that developers and publishers are reluctant to push the boundaries, and they stick to tried and tested formulas attempting to get a sure fire hit – but for the consumer we have played the same game already numerous times, so we instinctively know how to beat it, and thus the satisfaction from doing so is diminished.

  7. #7 by Sakinah on May 14th, 2010 [ 26489 Points ]

    No & no.

  8. #8 by cliffster1134 on May 14th, 2010 [ 235 Points ]

    I pretty much finish every game I touch. But rarely do I replay unless theres a multiplayer side to it. Only a few good games i’ve touched and havent finished were GTA IV and Fallout 3. Crazy i know. I really liked them too just lost interest.

  9. #9 by DarkKnight32 on May 14th, 2010

    No games are way to short now and days but there are goods and bads to this. Its good because it makes for a bigger and better sequal. Its bad because the game could be totally awsome then its over like that. So there are pluses and minuses.

  10. #10 by Emrah on May 15th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    I can happily pay 15 bucks for 5 hour games. I hope they are not thinking about making 60 dollar 5 hour games :b

  11. #11 by DarkLance on May 15th, 2010 [ 475 Points ]

    I actually have to agree with that Davison guy. I could count on my fingers how many games I’ve actually played to completion. And unlike the upper comments, I have no life, and I can spend a whole day playing something. For example, I never finished TES: Oblivion. I never even finished the main quest, which is known to be short. And dear god, it’s not like Oblivion is a boring game. It took me two years to actually finish Resistance: Fall of Man, and that was fairly recent. Now sure, I wouldn’t want to be paying 60 dollars for a 5 hour game, unless it was as good as GoW III.

  12. #12 by Eddie on May 15th, 2010 [ 44542 Points ]

    Resistance in 2 years? You do know that equates to well under a minute of gameplay a day averaged out right? lol.

    Games do not need to be shorter or easier. They need to be more compelling. Stop adding fluff to artificially increase the games length and bore the hell out of the gamer.

  13. #13 by EdEN on May 15th, 2010 [ 136079 Points ]

    When you’re married and have a 6 days a week job your gaming time gets cut into a 3rd, if you’re lucky, of what you did in your 20′s. That’s the main difference between all the responses around here.

  14. #14 by Emrah on May 15th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    Just because we are getting old doesn’t mean the games need to be short :)

    I’m all for short and cheap games tho.

  15. #15 by Drious on May 15th, 2010

    I agree with the guy but also disagree

    I agree b/c there are several games that I just can not beat no matter how much I try…..and I get the feeling that the admin of the game made it that way

    On the other hand, how many times have people run through games in no time due to it being too easy? It seems like many games are like that

    There doesnt seem to be a middle ground

  16. #16 by Gossip565com on May 15th, 2010

    i agree that some games are just too hard. Like little Big planet that game is wayyyy too hard. So i no longer play it.

  17. #17 by Jonaskin on May 16th, 2010

    I’ve owned Fallout 3 for a year and still haven’t finished it. That’s a pretty difficult game IMO, with a tonne of stuff to do which adds to the longevity. Fantastic game as well. Although for difficulty it’s a lot easier than for example Demons Souls.


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