The video game industry has always been at the cutting edge of what technology can do. If you think about how much more sophisticated and complex games have become over the past 20 years, it’s clear that this highly competitive field has always pushed the envelope in terms of what is creatively possible.
Partly this reflects how the hardware we play these games on has improved. PCs and high-performance gaming laptops today have far greater memory and processing power than their equivalents only a few years ago. Tomorrow’s devices are set to be exponentially more powerful in every way. At the same time, even the phones in our pockets are now more sophisticated computers than older desktop devices.
It’s not just a case of games having to keep pace with hardware updates. Often, the new features in the latest games force hardware manufacturers to meet demand by producing devices capable of hosting these games at full capacity. For example, many games can now be played at 4k, even though few players have devices capable of rendering visuals at that resolution. In this case, it’s the hardware manufacturers that are playing catchup.
But today’s games don’t just demand more from our devices. They require more from players, too. The latest titles in best-selling franchises are notably more challenging to play and take longer to complete than previous titles in the series. Sometimes, these games can take up to four times longer to finish than the original title. It’s no wonder many players prefer the immediate gratification of online real money slots that are free to play and easy to win.
Many single-player titles can take 40 hours or more to complete, while immersive, open-world games like Fortnite offer possibilities for literally endless exploration. Of recent storytelling games with a linear narrative, Horizon Forbidden West takes over 27 hours on average to complete. In contrast, Elden Ring, also from 2022, takes over 46 hours to get through the main story.
Critics have described Elden Ring as one of the most demanding games ever in terms of length and difficulty. It’s estimated that completing all the possible tasks and side quests would take 107 hours. Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (2017), Red Dead Redemption II (2018), and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020) also take a notoriously long time to complete. A recent expansion pack for the latter game added another 35 hours’ worth of gameplay.
As companies compete to create ever longer games, they are sold to the public as offering better value. But the real motivation behind this trend is to control players’ time. The longer you spend in a game, the more likely you are to spend money in the game, purchasing everything from cosmetic items to updates that unlock yet more adventure time.
These micro-transactions are often a bigger and more sustained source of revenue for publishers than the initial sale of the game. But bigger isn’t always better, and the industry is starting to see a backlash from players who want shorter and more creative games. A 2019 study suggested that only 14% of players completed the games they owned. Maybe then, it’s time to go back to basics with games that feel like fun rather than a test of endurance.