Grumpy Gurevitz: How Long?

Time is a commodity worth a fortune to committed gamers.

How many hours a week do you put into gaming, and when doing so for how long is each period of gaming? I haven’t seen any stats, but I bet the average reader of this wonderful site is 20+ and so is either in or about to enter the world of work, relationships and possibly kids. I wake up at 5.30/6am, go to work and get back between 8-10pm everyday. Often I work a day on the weekend too.

When I was between 12-18 years old, blowing a whole weekend playing games was easy. Each session would last between 2-6 hours and I could rip through games in no time. When I got a game I expected to flog it to death and play till my fingers were numb! Heck I was able to keep multiple Civilisation sessions going whilst playing other titles on my Amiga and PS1!

So, clearly it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyhow) that due to my current hours, and levels of fatigue which overcome me when I’m not working, I have a lot less ‘game’ time. Indeed, even when the time exists I have to negotiate access to the TV, a perfect 40 incher which is a Full HD model with amazing response times and superb contrast levels. A TV which my wife often decides to use to watch some awful celebrity orientated reality show, or DepressedEnders.

I have made my life a lot easier by getting PlayTV for my PS3. This allows my wife to watch most programmes she enjoys on the PSP via remote play freeing up the TV for some 360 or Wii action. It doesn’t help of course if I want to play a PS3 game though as that’s tied up. It’s complicated and each night’s set of activities has to be thought through. At times I’m relegated to my DSi or PSP. Not a problem in itself as I enjoy my games for those platforms – but clearly it results in my ability to ‘get through’ my triple A titles being severely limited.

Hence it is with some joy that recently there have been some really great AAA titles that, to be honest, didn’t last all that long. Great games like Batman Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 2, BattleField Bad Company, Uncharted 2, Halo Wars and just about any Wii title. I’m not anti the really long games, indeed I’m currently playing Assassin’s Creed 2 which is probably somewhere in between, but I have started to get annoyed with games such as Far Cry 2, Fallout 3 (which I have and still intend to play at some point. I keep starting and never get anywhere) and even GTA4, which I only got around three quarters of the way through.

"Thanks for Keeping This Short Batman." "No Problem, Jim."

I appreciate these games but there are questions concerning how viable they are for both players and developers. It takes around 2-4 years to develop some of these titles, compared to say 6 months to a year for something like Brain Training. The short-term sales are often quite good but then drop off rapidly. Take Assassin’s Creed 2 as an example. Current worldwide sales are around 6 million, which are not bad at all, and will certainly mean the game will turn a healthyprofit. However, they could have just cut the game down and released version 2 and 2.5 within a year of each other, with each selling that same amount. In many ways the latest Zelda game on the DS follows this route.

The development path for the two DS Zelda games has allowed Nintendo to sell two full price Zelda titles within a year and half of each other. Guess what; everyone is ok with it. It’s good for Nintendo as development time per game is less and hence cheaper. It’s great for the audience as they get a good experience, which is just right in size for their money and they get that sense of achievement upon reaching its completion. Plus the punters get two of them and the second one benefits from some design changes from the feedback of the first. Everyone is a winner!

It’s clear this is what will happen with Batman Arkham Asylum 2 and I think other developers are starting to look at this. I call it boxed DLC and I think it’s the way forward! I love DLC and see a place for it, but often it’s too ‘bitty’ and is neither a version .5 nor a new game. I find that DLC regularly takes the form of some tid bits here and there that didn’t quite make it into the main game or simply multiplayer maps. I like multiplayer maps and have no issue with them as DLC, but often they are used to tide the IP over until the new game is ready 2-3 years later.

Short and violent. The single player game packs enough explosions to warrant reruns, like any good movie, whilst the spec ops and multiplayer modes allow you to dip in and out for months to come, but for small or long periods - as you wish.

The other thing some of these ‘just the right length’ games get right is that they use the single player game to create a believable set of characters in an exciting universe. As a consequence they have the building blocks for a fully working and engaging online or non-single player element. MW2 has its online multiplayer and for me the most exciting part is the Spec Ops. Indeed, if they were to release DLC or ship a disc with just more Spec Ops I would be very happy with that. I would also be very happy if they released a MW2.5 next year with the exact same game engine. Uncharted 2 has a great multiplayer setup, which I admit I need to invest more time in and Halo War’s very short single player game is clearly just a tutorial for the ongoing multiplayer battles.

With Batman there is an engaging set of challenges with online leaderboards – and what is great about these is that once the main game is done, and you have started on another major single player narrative with some other AAA title, you can dip in and out of Batman to get a taste of the experience by playing these challenges for 10-15 minutes. For me that’s a job well done, at least until the sequel!

I’m not going to sit here and say how the day of the huge never-ending sandbox game is over. That would be daft, and there are a raft due to hit the market in 2010. Indeed, with console games and MMOs due to collide in 2010-2011 it’s clear that there are going to be a few titles designed to totally consume you, as World of Warcraft has done on the PC/Mac platforms. However, take note when a number of analysts have pointed out how much time is put into a GTA game. They highlight that Take 2’s business model is fragile due to the time and money invested in something which could eventually under perform. Rockstar’s plan to release new DLC ‘episodes’ for the 360 were a great idea, and I’m sure they sold well, but if they had just released them as boxed content (which they did eventually anyway) a year later as a multi-platform release I think most punters would have been happy. Indeed if they had put a little less in GTA4 and a little more into the episodes it would have justified a full price RRP and improvements to the graphics etc could have been evolutionary rather than staggered with each major release.

Even the youth of today lack the time they had once. Mainly due to SATS, Facebook and of course Street Crime

I think many developers are realising that as their audience continues to grow up and their habits change regarding how they play, where and with whom we will see more of these AAA titles, which offer a great but ‘short’, 4-7 hour experience. It will lead to better games or at least shorter bad ones (don’t knock it – I played Risen). I like to think of it as the difference between going to a local restaurant that gives you huge portions of tasty and good food, in comparison to Michelin Star restaurants that seem to give you exquisite food but in what seems very small portions. The only thing is, when you leave those Michelin Star restaurants you neither feel bloated nor wanting more.

You simply feel satisfied.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands.

He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person ‘free world’, narrative driven and portable gaming.
He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

7 comments

  1. KrazyFace /

    I’m still wondering what the hell happened to my gaming time. I was lucky enough to get Arkham, Uncharted 2, NSMB Wii, Spirit Tracks and AC Bloodlines for christmas this year. I’ve managed the first 25 mins of Uncharted, got to the third world of NSMB Wii and havn’t even looked at Arkham yet. ‘Normally’ I’d have burst Uncharted wide open, found most of the secrets in NSMB and I’d have kicked the riddler’s arse where his puzzles are concerned by now. Yet what have I managed? Well, I’ve done Bloodlines and I’m around half-way through Spirit Tracks, and that’s only because they’re handhelds.

    I’m not saying I want my other half and my daughter kidnapped or anything, but I’m starting to think it’s the only way I’ll ever be able to re-visit Fallout 3 again in a casual way!

    • Steven G /

      Well KrazyFace, I can empathise and corroborate your personal situation as I see you on PlayTV ALL the time 😉

      • KrazyFace /

        Yeah, if I have to watch one more episode of relocation, relocation I’m gonna go postal.

        Hrm, now there’s a game I’d like to see re-made.

  2. Sid Wright /

    Street crime is popular – is there a game for that?

    If not, here are some possible titles.

    Escape from ASBO
    Revenge of The Little Old Lady
    Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

    • Steven G /

      Well there is, of course the GTA series! However they are trying to build morality into games like those. Perhaps your clear direction, especially with the title of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme is the way forward?

      Im sure Keith Vaz would be a fan.

      Would these games be on going though, or short ones we could dip in and out of? Just like real street crime?

  3. Sid Wright /

    Well, you could accumulate wealth and have a leader board enabling National and International comparison.

    The activity of the local police could be factored in as the constraining factor you would have to avoid. Periods in remand would constitute a severe penalty as you would be unable to participate while others continued to accumulate wealth.

    National leaders could be invited to an International play-off, perhaps under the aegis of Simon Cowell.

    Already the game is taking shape which demonstrates the richness of my creativity.

  4. half_empty80 /

    It’s ironic that as you get to a position in life where you have a disposable income to get the big TV, the snazzy console and loads of games, you have much less time to play. I’m training my kids to like video games, so that we can play together asap. That’s if I can get the TV off the wife. Still, there’s always the DS…

Leave a Reply