Quality Vs Quantity in Video Games

Video games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment and now rival the movie and music industries. Compared to movies and music, video games are much more expensive per purchase. On iTunes, a typical album is around $10, and DVD movies are usually under $30. Full retail games, meanwhile, are typically $60 on both PS3 and Xbox 360 ($50 for PC and Wii). The current economic downturn has affected most businesses around the world and video games are no exception. Game sales have dropped substantially for a couple of years now and many companies are forced to lay off workers and entire development teams. It is more important than ever for consumers to choose games that are value for money. Determining what exactly makes a game a good value is a difficult question to answer, as evidenced by the drastic difference in sales from game to game.

Lower cost is a sure way to increase value. Digital distribution allows for this as publishers do not have to charge for the cost of shipping a game to stores. All major gaming platforms today (PC, 360, PS3, Wii, DS and PSP) allow digitally downloaded games to some extent. The recently announced PSP Go will only allow downloadable games. This is certainly a good trend, but it is not quite the solution, at least not yet. For starters, the vast majority of games are still purchased at retail. There are some reasons for this. Console manufacturers are just beginning to integrate full-featured games into their download services, so most major titles can’t be purchased this way. Console gamers will also need a break-in period to get used to the concept, so even as more games become available via Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, there will still be a period of time where retail purchases will outsell. than their downloadable counterparts. Second, there has yet to be a noticeable cut in the purchase price of downloadable releases. Buying a new version from the Steam PC download service usually saves a couple of bucks, but it’s not the drastic cut you’d expect. Also, the games designed with the downloadable market are still less developed than the standard releases. Battlefield 1943, for example, is a recently released download-only game that has the same gameplay style as the commercial versions of the series, such as Battlefield 2 or Battlefield 2142. However, it only has 4 multiplayer maps and 3 classes to use. This is much less than the previous entries. So even if Battlefield 1943 is cheaper, it’s cheaper because there’s less content.

So, for the most part, price won’t be the determining factor for games just yet. They are usually the same price as competing games.

In that case, it all comes down to the game itself when looking at value. Some games offer huge amounts of content. Supreme Commander takes about 30 hours to complete, The Orange Box could take even longer to finish all included games, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion could take over 100 hours if the player decides to check out everything it has to offer. Then there are multiplayer-focused games that could provide an endless amount of replayability. Call of Duty 4 has gotten over 100 hours of online play from certain people and World of Warcraft has so much that Blizzard charges $15 a month to play it and still sees millions of users play it for years.

On the other hand, Call of Duty 4 takes less than 10 hours to develop its excellent, but short, single-player campaign. The God of War games are critically acclaimed, but none of them are very long and they also don’t offer any multiplayer game modes.

This leads to the important question. What makes a game worth buying? When it comes to the number of hours to finish, RPGs like Final Fantasy and Fallout 3 are surely at the top of the list. However, it is impossible to measure the hours required to finish a multiplayer game. Going back to Call of Duty 4, you can see all the maps and modes in just a couple of hours, but some people keep coming back for more.

The answer to the question will surely vary from person to person. For me, the best value is a high-quality, high-content experience. Currently, I have played Oblivion for more than 40 hours, I have not finished it and I still enjoy playing it. That is certainly a good value. It becomes harder to choose when it comes to games that are short but enjoyable and games that are long but mediocre.

A downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade and PC, Braid is a Super Mario-style platformer with a twist where your character can manipulate time to solve puzzles. I bought this game and finished it after only 4-5 hours of play. The game even has a mode to try and beat in 45 minutes, acknowledging how short it really is. There’s also no multiplayer, so I haven’t gone back to it after finishing it. That said, I loved the game. Everything from the unique gameplay to the soundtrack to the story fits together very well. However, the game costs money and I got much less hours than other games.

I have been told that Titan Quest for PC can take up to 40 hours to complete. While I appreciate the developers trying to extend the length of the game, I personally didn’t fall in love with the game. I spent about 5 or 6 hours on it, and while there was nothing particularly bad, I ended up moving on to another game and never completed it. It may have the potential to be a worthwhile purchase, but I didn’t get as much as I expected for the price I paid.

This is the risk that developers encounter when stretching their games. With a limited number of hours to play video games, I won’t finish the games I find to last a long time if I’m not a huge fan of them. This lowers its value to me because I’ll never get to see the conclusion of the story or face the tougher boss enemies the game has to offer.

Is there a perfect sweet spot for games to hit, where they provide enough content without becoming tedious mid-game? Should all games have a minimum length, say 10 hours? 15 hours? Should games be shorter and cheaper because of their length? Is it better for a game to be short and great or long and good but not great? I don’t know if I can answer these questions, but I’d love to hear from someone who has an opinion on the subject.

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