Game length and value

A bunch of game developers blogged about game length and value a couple weeks ago. No one asked my opinion but how has that ever stopped me before? :) Here's a link to Wolfire's blog about this topic (which also points to many other blogs).

Here's my take on things in the form of a formula:
value = quality * time / cost - buying pain

Basically, 20 hours of great gameplay is better than 10 hours of great gameplay (assuming the same cost). So yeah I think game length is important. It does very much impact my perceived value of a product. Seriously would anyone really claim that a $50 game that lasted 1 hour was a good value? Only if it was the best 1 hour of their gaming life.

However, 10 hours of great gameplay plus 10 hours of boring filler is worth less than 10 hours of great gameplay. To me boring filler is a negative number in that equation above. I would much rather take a shorter game without the filler getting in the way.

Quality is very subjective though and people are going to value quality vs time and cost differently. Is a good 10 hour game better or worse than a 5 hour game that was great? Is a 100 hour good game better or worse than a 5 hour great game?

One thing that confuses the issue is how long is the story line? Personally I don't think it usually matters because there are 4 typical scenarios. 1) There is no storyline like in Civilization or Tetris. 2) I stop playing before finishing the storyline. 2) I play through the games multiple times because the gameplay is more important than the story and/or the game has lots of replayability. 3) I play through the storyline once and finish there. In this case, the length does matter, but everyone is going to go through the story at a different pace. What it really boils down to is how long do you play the game? That's the only time period that actually matters, not some marketing speak about the storyline length.

And finally that weird buying pain part. Personally I find buying stuff is kind of a pain. Going through a painful buying process to play for an hour is probably not worth it for me no matter how good the game is.

How this all plays out for me is that I like good to great games that I can play for a long time. Cost doesn't matter as much. I'm fine with spending $60 on a game that I'm going to play for 50 hours. $20 would be better of course. However a game that I don't expect to play more than a few hours isn't even worth purchasing for me even if it's only $1. I would rather just go play another game of Civ.


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