2015 was the year of the open-world, make no bones about it. We’ve had plenty of open-world games before of course, but this was the culmination of open-worlds achieving mass success. The days of the linear, story-driven experience feels like they’re numbered. For better or for worse, depending on who you ask.
Some, like me, love a good 8-15 hour narrative game that moves at a great pace and keeps you hooked the entire time. Others prefer getting a lot of ‘content’ for their money. That is, the longer you can spend lost in its world, the better the purchase. For people like me, that’s meant 2015 has been a bit of an open-world slog. Luckily there’s been lots of little gems to fill in the gaps between the 100-hour long AAA heavyweights, including Life is Strange, Her Story, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and Splatoon, to name but a few.
Have a look at movies and you’ll find a medium which has settled on a roughly two-hour runtime. Some are a bit longer, some are a bit shorter, but when you head into a cinema you know vaguely how much time you’re going to invest. With videogames there’s just nothing of the sort. It’s a scattergun approach where a four-hour game can cost $60, the same as a 200-hour epic.
The reason most lengthy games take so long to complete is because they are filled with things to do. Obviously. But because of the size of the worlds, and the expectations of length demanded of by the audience, this is stretched out by repeated content designed to do nothing but take up the player’s time.You know the sort of stuff by now. Just Cause 3’s checkpoint races. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s kidnapping missions. MGS V’s side-ops.
Now I’m not saying these are all bad, per se. In fact, they’re all usually pretty fun for the first, second, maybe even the third time you do them. But once you repeat them ad infinitum across a gigantic world map, it becomes absolute filler. There's a few out there that strike a great balance, like GTA V and The Witcher 3, but they are few and far between.
It’s cheap for game developers to populate worlds like this as well. It’s why open-world games are launching so frequently. You can take a template and paste it over the entire world. But does being 100+ hours long really make these games any better?
Should there be more nuanced pricing schemes to reflect the length of games? What is your ideal length for a game?