Head-to-Head: Are games too long? –

This year has featured some absolute corkscrews of video games. Between The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate III, we’ve already seen some truly remarkable titles this year, and Starfield is looking to join this fray when it debuts in a few weeks. With these huge titles in mind, Ben and Alex clashed again to discuss game length and whether or not video games are getting too long.

Games are getting too long – Ben

I don’t have children or a young family to take care of. I don’t even have to worry about elderly relatives, or deal with many of the situations that many people around the world end up sacrificing their free time to. , I don’t even have a garden to maintain. Besides my work, my social life and my dogs, I live for myself, myself and me. Yet I still only have a few hours of free time each day, and in that free time I have to decide whether to sit down and watch a movie or play a game I have in my backlog. For titles like Alan Wake Remastered, Metroid Dread, Street Fighter 6, none of this is a problem, but for some games, it means signing up for an investment of several months – and that’s assuming I don’t get lost in the sauce while playing them.

After its release in late May, I finally managed to finish The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom two weeks ago. When I say finish, I mean complete the main storyline, and about half of the side quests, and a third or so of the side activities. In essence, I probably saw about 40% of the game. But it took me months of playing here and there to get that far, and now Baldur’s Gate III is here, and Starfield is around the corner, so I have no choice but to put Tears of the Kingdom aside if I plan to pick up one of those games.

Head-to-Head: Are games too long?

But it’s not just the mega 100+ hour RPGs that are a problem for me, anything longer than 25 hours starts to be difficult. I like a game that can be completed in 10-20 hours. Diablo IV was perfect for me. As was Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, Pikmin 4, Final Fantasy XVI, even Hogwarts Legacy really. These games that I can commit to for a few weeks, beat the main story, do some extra activities, maybe complete 100% if it really appeals to me, are perfectly sized in my mind because they manage to excel in the same way the colossal RPGs do, just in a more compact way. And for what it’s worth, games of this format usually have plenty of ways to extend the experience far beyond the 20-hour mark if you so desire.

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For years with fewer big launches, game length has been less of an issue, but in 2023 we’ve rarely had a break and this won’t change in the fall. Between Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Alan Wake 2, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, The Crew Motorfest, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and so on, there’s a lot to look forward to. Fortunately, none of these games seem to be hugely long, but I’m already well aware that Starfield and Baldur’s Gate III will have to be on the back burner while I conquer these upcoming projects, or vice versa.

Head-to-Head: Are games too long?Head-to-Head: Are games too long?
Head-to-Head: Are games too long?Head-to-Head: Are games too long?

This is precisely why I think we need shorter, tighter games. With the amount of live service projects out there, games that you can enjoy within a reasonable period of time and then move on should be more common. Value for money is always a talking point, but for me, if a game is well designed, has a gripping story, isn’t baby carriage and is fun to play, it doesn’t matter if it lasts 10 or 45 hours, I’m going to enjoy it anyway. There’s a place for huge games, but we don’t need every game on the market to have replayability and content that stretches it dozens of hours, and I’m sure of that.

Games don’t get too long – Alex

There are some incredibly long games out there, yes. Baldur’s Gate III can hold your attention for hundreds of hours if you let it and takes a while to complete. Other big games this year take similar time, and yet it seems a bit excessive to link this to a problem in the industry, if you ask me.

Not everyone who plays games has a job where they have to play them. They are free to decide how they spend their time and what games they want to play. Some will want to try as many games as they can, while others only want to make a few big AAA purchases. Now that people are truly free to spend their time as they please, the case against longer games becomes much more of a personal issue than one that actually has to do with the industry.

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Head-to-Head: Are games too long?

Moreover, a big point in favor of longer titles is that they offer more value for money. For fifty Great British Pounds, I can buy Baldur’s Gate III, which gives me at least about 70 hours to finish the game’s story. The same can be said for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the more recent Assassin’s Creed games, Elden Ring, Red Dead Redemption 2 and many more. All of these games have also received rave reviews, so even if not everyone finds the time to finish them, those who do love the experience.

If you don’t have time to play a longer game, but everyone else loves it, there can be a bit of FOMO, but while starting a longer experience can be daunting, if it’s worth it, those hours will melt away. I clocked off 85 hours in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom without feeling like I had spent any time at all in Hyrule. Not every open-world game will have that effect, but those that did have proven to be worth the investment.

Head-to-Head: Are games too long?

Shorter, sweeter adventures are great too, don’t get me wrong, but with Game Pass and PS Plus you can now wait a while for something like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and play it as part of that monthly cost instead of paying over £60 for a 10-hour experience. As game pricing becomes increasingly unfair, we need to price those that give you a worthy amount of time for what you pay.

2023 can and probably will be one of the best gaming years in perhaps decades. We already have so much and only more to come. This can be a little scary, especially considering that many of these incredible titles are huge RPGs, but there is plenty of time to pick them up and play them if you want, or leave them aside. Longer games are often single player, meaning it’s up to you alone when you decide to dive in.

Head-to-Head: Are games too long?Head-to-Head: Are games too long?

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