These days, video games are somewhat generally accepted as a time sink, especially for those made by AAA studios. The average length of most big-name games today range from about 30 to 50 hours, with some, like the likes of The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey even stretching it to as long as up to 80 hours, assuming one were to do a completionist run.
However, in the eyes of Shawn Layden, former Worldwide Chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment, these big studios could see better success in the long run by adopting the old “12-to-15-hour” formula, as the industry once did in the early 2000s and before that.
Using The Last of Us Part II (a game that has an average playtime of about 25 hours) as a barometer, Layden explained how that, as costs for making video games rise, studios deem it necessary to make their games’ scale and size match the constantly-inflating budget given to them in order to make the game worth their time and effort. However, he posited that such a formula is “just not sustainable”.
“It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for the 50 to 60 hour gameplay milestone, because that’s gonna be so much more expensive to achieve,” Layden recently explained to Gamesindustry.biz. “And in the end you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that’s the kind of threshold they have to meet… We have to reevaluate that.”
With the next console generation imminent, Layden laments that there may not be enough time to play the new games coming out, assuming the industry continues to adopt its current mentality. As such, he poses a challenge to developers to consider spending “three years and a 15-hours game”, instead of an 80-hour title within five years.
Personally, as an older gamer… I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour [AAA] game. I would finish more games, first of all, and just like a well edited piece of literature or a movie, looking at the discipline around that could give us tighter, more compelling content.
Where this discussion goes remains to be seen, but we’ve seen glimpses of just how impactful shorter games can be to the industry in the past decade. After all, the original The Last of Us only took under 20 hours, and it is still revered as one of the greatest games of all time. The same goes for Marvel’s Spider-Man, which can also take around the same amount of time to finish (sans 100% completion).
For now, seeing the 12-hour game truly returning to form is just something of a pipe dream to Layden and those of the same school of thought.
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.