Monday, December 20, 2010

Trends in Video Games

Remember back in the early days of video games where play time was dictated by skill and patience?  Remember the days of the 8-bit and 16-bit era’s where spending a minimum of 14 hours was the norm to finish a game on easy?  I remember those days.  I have also been seeing a trend since the 32-bit days of the Playstation and N64 where play times started slipping to shorter time frames for easy levels.  I recall beating Metal Gear Solid in 10 hours!  It seems that the norm to beat most games that have been released within the last 8 to 10 years is generally 8 to 14 hours.  In some cases, I have seen play time reduced to a mere 6 hours!  Is this a case of “Be careful of what you wish for?”, or “It’s just a phase.”

I remember reading in various articles back as I grew up where journalists and gamers were both complaining of the 40+ hour playtime promised in many popular RPG’s and other games.  I recall how many of them, being older games, just didn’t have the time to invest in such long play times.  They wanted to buy their games, play them, beat them, and enjoy the story without investing a weeks worth of playing to do so.  I recall how many games I have played, and yet to finish, due to time constraints.  I can feel how they feel.  However, there is a brutal flipside to this argument.

Games have gone up in price with the release of the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 from $50 per premium title to $60 per title.  The reason for a price jump is due to the level of production costs involved in making these games.  The PlayStation 3 and the XBox 360 are both powerful devices capable of delivering real time 3D rendered graphics on par with some television computer rendered effects.  The developers want to make quicker returns on their major investments.  However, turn around time from developments initial phases to release time has generally remained the same since the Playstation 1 days of 1 to 3 years.  The major difference is we are seeing games shorten in length to feeling more like that of a big budget mini-series event.

Now we have games that can easily be played through to the end within a 10 hour play time.  However, we are still paying premium prices for such games.  How do publishes balance this?  For the hardcore gamer, the answer is downloadable content.  For the casual gamer, this means GameStop.  Depending on the console you are using, publishers released DLC (downloadable content) for free as add-ons to the games they released so it keeps gamers involved, and playing.  For casual gamers not looking to download add-ons, or in the case of XBox 360 having to purchase that content, aren’t interested in extra material that oft times is not relevant to the main game.

To combat this issue of shorter games, publishers are pushing DLC packages to consoles about 3 to 6 months after release.  On the PlayStation 3 some DLC is completely free, where as some DLC can cost about $6 to $10 USD.  On the XBox 360 you need to have XBox Live Points that costs you around $25 per 1600 points.  Nintendo jumped on this bandwagon with the Wii and DSi/DSi XL to some extent.

So, what is the new argument being shared between journalists and gamers this time around?  Games are entirely to short!  Come on folks, can we PLEASE make up our minds here?  If you want a game that has “endless” amounts of game play involved, I highly recommend finding an MMO that fits your needs.  There are literally hundreds out now, all ranging in free-to-play to pay-to-play formats.  I have seen MMO’s in the form of First Person Shooters to Fantasy RPG to Sci-Fi to Strategy formats.  If you want to play a game for pure entertainment value that is not going to require a lengthy investment of time to complete, I recommend just making due with what is now available, learn how to take advantage of DLC packages, and enjoy the console games that are currently available.  Or, just bust out the old consoles from yesteryear in your closets and play those older titles that took days to complete.

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