For many, video games represent an investment. At an average MSRP of $60, gamers are constantly showing concern over the amount of time that they might spend with their games. According to Shawn Layden, former chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide, games have gotten far too long, and the industry should consider shortening the average game. It's an interesting argument, and one that makes a lot of sense, given the ballooning costs of development. Speaking to Venturebeat's Dean Takahashi, Layden talked about his personal reasons for wanting to see that change, and why he thinks it would be better for the industry as a whole.
“I would welcome the return of the 12-15 hour game,” said Layden. “I would finish more games, first of all. Just like a well-edited piece of literature or a movie — I’ve been looking at the discipline around that, the containment around that. It could get us tighter, more compelling content. It would be something I’d like to see a return to.”
While many gamers enjoy lengthy experiences, there are others that would complete more games if the average title was shorter. There are also a number of financial incentives for the industry to move in that direction. For one, it might help with the rising costs of development. While just about all forms of entertainment have seen price increases over the years, the average MSRP of video games has remained fairly stable over the last three decades, despite the fact that development is significantly costlier; in many cases, the price of games has actually decreased! While industry profits have greatly risen over the years, the fact is that the current model is unsustainable.
Downloadable content seems to be the perfect compromise between publishers looking to decrease costs, and players that want longer experiences. DLC helps publishers extend the shelf-lives of their titles, and it's significantly cheaper to produce versus a brand-new game. It's not a perfect model, however. Gamers often accuse publishers of holding DLC in order to "gouge" the audience. In some circumstances, this has absolutely happened. However, longer games need longer development time, and that means greater costs for publishers. In the long run, the industry will have to consider changing the way video games are produced.
“Instead of spending five years to make an 80-hour game, what does three years and a 15-hour game look like," Layden mused. "What are the costs around that?”
It's certainly an interesting question, and one that the video game industry will have to address, particularly as the next generation of consoles approaches.
Are video games too long? Should the industry look for ways to cut back on costs? Let us know in the comments or share directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!