Great initiative today among Indie blogs debating the importance of game length. This is also my today’s entry for idevblogaday.com
Can we agree that at a minimum, the length of a game IS one of many factors for judging whether the value proposition of a game is justifying buying it? And in some games (those with a campaign/story), it is a pretty important factor.
Wouldn’t you also agree that if Half Life 2 takes an average player 40h to play through and Half Life 2 Ep1 only 20h while selling at the same price, any review (aka buying decision helper) should point this out? And if the industry standard for ego shooters at this point in time is around 40h of tight gameplay, then that criticism can be pretty dominant in the review?
Enter casual games. Those typically feature “endless play” and for those games, it is very hard to even measure game length. However, in those games “variation” or “content” starts to kick in and again, should be valued. Even the super-simple Flight Control features a set of different levels in the meantime, even Doodle Jump publishes updates that enhance the original gameplay with more and more variety, giving the player an extended time where playing is fun. As a factor, game length is less important than with other types of games, but it still plays some role.
Why game length
Now for reviews, there is always a chance they will put too much weight on one specific factor. I have no idea why we discuss specifically the factor “game length” today. Tomorrow, with exactly the same arguments, we will discuss artwork, then sound, then characters, then menu screens, then help screens, you name it. As in “if game xyz had better graphics it would be a better game”. Heated debate guaranteed.
Your Golden Ticket!
Let me introduce a twist to the topic though, specific for mobile games. As you probably know, I am constantly trying to understand the new marketplace we are selling to and the dynamics of its pricing. What I frequently saw with Indie games was that spicing up even casual games with different varieties or a story-mode was a good way for the developer to double or triple the price. This is due to the fact that we are tied to the price tiers of the marketplace, which makes $0.99, $1.99, $2.99 and above very natural milestones for us. Notice how big those steps really are, percentage wise? It should be a primary goal for every developer to get to the next highest price point with his game and for THAT purpose, I found game length a very credible factor to play around with. If you worked on your core gameplay for three months and you see a chance to add a story mode at the cost of another month while also feeling that this would allow you to hike up your game price credibly, I’d say this is a compelling thought. In the classic video game world, you would NOT be able to double the price that easily.
My favorite example these days is Chopper 2. Selling at a $2.99 price as release promotion, then targeting $4.99. There is much less heavy fire against this price compared to say Canabalt or Solipskier and I’d say that the biggest reason for that is the very solid value proposition that comes with a 36 level campaign and three difficulty levels.
Greed is good
Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree with the statement that “awesomeness” is a more important factor than “game length”. What I want to add, as a developer, give your awesome game what it deserves. No fillers please, but smart extensions can extend the lifespan and justify a higher price (for casual games, Tilt to Live is doing a great job there)! And as a player, just to counter Noel’s post a bit, if I get my hands on something awesome, I’m all hedonistic and want plenty of it :)
Other Indie Voices On Game Length
- Noel Llopis of Snappytouch
- Alex Amsel of Tuna
- Chris DeLeon of HobbyGameDev
- Chris Hecker of Spy Party
- Cliff Harris of Positech Games
- Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games
- Eitan Glinert of Fire Hose Games
- Greg Wohlwend of Intution Games
- Jeffrey Rosen of Wolfire
- Jonathan Blow of Number None
- Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules
- Matt Gilgenbach of 24 Caret Games
- Peter Jones of Retro Affect
- Ron Carmel of 2DBoy
- Scott Macmillan of Macguffin Games