When modern gaming started to take shape in the 1970s and 1980s, games were incredibly short and could be beaten anywhere between a matter of minutes to an hour or so if you knew what you were doing. As time went on and technology became more advanced, games started becoming longer and more fleshed out. This eventually led to games that you can play for close to one hundred hours and still not be finished. However, with this most recent generation of consoles, games seem to have become shorter than before, not longer.
If you look at most of the big name games from the previous two generations of consoles, they usually last a good amount of time. Games like Kingdom Hearts, Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Majora's Mask, the Final Fantasy games, and others couldn't be completed in a matter of hours. You had to spend days playing them to completely finish the games with everything collected. While there are games today that do compete with these games in terms of length, they're a lot more uncommon.
I think part of the issue with game length nowadays is the fact that many of the major games released have a multiplayer focus. Games like Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Portal 2 have extremely short campaign modes, but have a nice, fleshed out multiplayer mode. Even though I do enjoy the multiplayer aspects of these games, I find myself wishing that their single player modes were longer, especially when I'm paying fifty to sixty dollars for a game. I don't want to be able to finish the story completely in one or two days; I want it to last me a good while so I get my money's worth out of it.
|Call of Duty is the perfect example of a game with a short campaign,|
but has a fleshed out multiplayer mode.
Yes, there have always been multiplayer games with a short story mode, but they're a lot more common this generation than they have been in any other. The standardization of online may have helped lead to that, but I feel like there are a lot of games today that should have had longer single player modes.
But it isn't just multiplayer games. There are also numerous games this generation that are strictly single player, but have short campaigns, like Batman Arkham City, Enslaved, and Bioshock. I don't know if it's the massive production costs that are cutting into the length of games, but it would be nice to see a new IP whose single player campaign lasts around twenty hours. If it is the production cost that's hindering the single player experience, then maybe developers should stop focusing so much on creating the largest worlds with the most realistic graphics, and start focusing on creating a game that lasts more than ten hours.
I do realize that there are games this generation that do have long campaigns, such as Final Fantasy XIII and the Zelda games, but due to their history and the expectations created by previous entries, their single player modes have to be a good length. Besides, these games are developed by companies with almost infinite resources, so the games themselves aren't hindered by the rising cost of development.
In the end, it feels like games today have generally become shorter than games from previous generations, for whatever reasons. Hopefully with the next generation right around the corner, games will start to become longer. Maybe the costs of development will drop with the newest consoles or multiplayer won't be included in almost every single game, which would hopefully lead to longer campaigns. We'll just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.