Avalanche Studios: Traded games are "too short"

Sundberg adds to the used games debate

Avalanche Studios' founder and chief creative officer has suggested that games are re-sold on the pre-owned market because they are completed too quickly or offer little replayability.

"I'm sure it's been an issue but that's because games have been too short," Christofer Sundberg told Edge.

"I mean when you can play a game through from 8 to 10 hours, I would return the game too, because there's no reason for players to play it again."

Avalanche Studios is best known for the Just Cause franchise and is currently working on Mad Max with Warner Bros.

"If you're offering little variation, then there's no motivation for the player to keep that game - unless they want to have a nice bookshelf. That's why we answered that with Just Cause. I go into game stores each week and I always go to the used game boxes - I usually don't find that many [copies of Just Cause]."

Last month Sundberg defended the Xbox One reveal and its entertainment focus, and said "if it was dubbed the ultimate gaming machine at this point, Microsoft would lose the attention of general media."

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Latest comments (16)

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters9 years ago
Journey cost me 10 and barely lasted 2 hours and I thought that was money well spent. Even if it were a physical copy I wouldn't want to trade it in. Dragging out the length of a game doesn't make it any better.
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Antony Johnston Writer & Narrative Designer 9 years ago
Yeah, agreed w Dave. Length isn't the problem quality is. Like a novel, a game should be as long as it needs to be, and no longer.

When a game is great, you want to keep it, no matter how short it might be. When a game is rubbish, even if it's thirty hours long (*especially* if it's thirty hours long!) the last thing you want is to play it again.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 9 years ago
Journey cost me 10 and barely lasted 2 hours
Call of duty 3 did not last much longer for 39.99...
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Show all comments (16)
John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
A lot of us core gamers are getting older now, we have jobs and families, we don't have time to play games 5 or 10 hours a day like we did when we were teenagers. So much as I like getting lost in big open games like Elder Scrolls and Assassin's Creed, I also love games I can finish in 8 or 10 hours (or preferably even less).

The worst thing is that often games are padded out with filler to reach an arbitrary playing time, not because it actually needed to be that long to give a fulfilling experience or tell its story. I've played a lot of games that I enjoyed, but which started to feel like they were just dragging things out for the sake of it and become a bit of a trudge to actually get around to finishing.

Length isn't a mark of quality, or the only way to reduce trade-ins. Provide players with something truly memorable and they may well keep it anyway, thinking they'll come back to it one day. Or give them something endlessly replayable, so they can experience a full game in a few hours but can come back and play it again as often as they like and see something different each time. Or just make the game short and fun and keep the price down to match, like Telltale's episodic adventures. My wife's playing Back to the Future at the moment, and being able to complete an entire chapter together in one sitting is great for us.

One size doesn't fit all.
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Sam Brown Lead Audio Programmer, TT Games9 years ago
I equate a lot of games (mostly with a decent story) with favourite books I go back and read again. I've read things like H2G2 more times than I can count, and my hours spent on the Mass Effect singleplayer games runs into the hundreds. Length has nothing to do with it - I can complete Quake in less than an hour and Mirror's Edge in only a few, but I keep doing it. Quality of game play and/or a compelling narrative is what does it for me.
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Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 9 years ago
Apparently. the two hour narrative game is the future:

As a working parent, I'm looking forward to playing full stories or episodes of this length. It fits my lifestyle much better than RPGs guaranteeing 100hrs of gameplay or games that have forced multiplayer components.
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Colin Payne game designer; artist 9 years ago
I find short games infinitely more re-playable.

I believe he is entirely incorrect
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
If a short game is really good its more likely to be replayed. A game like this is Vanquish. Its so good, Im probably never going to resell it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 18th June 2013 6:38pm

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Paul Smith Dev 9 years ago
A game should be as long as it needs to be, and no longer.
Pretty much this, there's nothing worse than a game which has padding, there's only 2 games in recent memory that I wish were longer and that's Half-life 2 Episode 2 and The Witcher 2.

Quality over quantity every time.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 18th June 2013 5:08pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
I guess all those awesome speed-run videos we see on YouTube are made by people who only play a game ONCE, right? =^P

In my world good games (no matter how short or long) get replayed until everything is seen. I can see if a game was SO linear that yeah, it was "two hours" flat and there was nothing to go back to, but geez. It took me six to get through Journey the first time because I was exploring and not following the idea of "get from A to B and not see the sights". The second time was quicker. The third time I went back and did a slightly longer run.

Maybe the article should be titled "Gamers With Short Attention Spans Are Returning Games Too Quickly" or something like that...

All I know is I'll be playing Mad Max to death, as I don't give a hoot about MP modes and want to finally see the character done (and doing some) justice...

Anyway, I guess this "gamer culture" can be faulted a tiny bit, as many "expect" length to reflect quality and cost, then blow through content so quickly only to complain about lack of length NOT at all realizing that no one chained them to that couch and MADE them sit there for six or eight (or two) hours straight. That's the mark of a good game if you can do that, I say. "Bad" games might get completed, but its not fun to go through something that needed more time cooking.

But whatever - it's like complaining that games are "repetitive" when by nature, they need to be to a great extent.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 18th June 2013 5:52pm

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Lewis Pulsipher Game Designer, Author, Teacher 9 years ago
The key is a game, whatever length, that offers good reasons to play it again and again, versus a game that you play once, "beat" it, and then trade in, whatever the length. When you're done, you're done. Players are never done with the best tabletop games, so trading in/selling used is not a problem. Lots of the weaker tabletop games get traded/sold used, because after a few plays there's nothing more there. Lots of video games get traded in because there's nothing more there.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lewis Pulsipher on 18th June 2013 6:06pm

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Robert Nzengou-Tayo Independent. 9 years ago
Well, there's also the question of price. I spend 40 and beat a game in 3 hours, I've just been robbed. To mitigate the damage, I resell it, and I don't give a crap about the publisher's profits because he's the one who robbed me. Screw that guy. You spend 40, you want 40 worth of content, which I think is the point he's trying to make.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd9 years ago
I'm with Nintendo, it's not length it's quality. No one minds trading in a Call of Duty game because the experience is intensely disposable. Nothing in those campaigns (on average) feels unique or new.
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Alex Barnfield Lead Engineer, 17-BIT9 years ago
I'm more likely to trade in a game for being too long, not having the time or patience to make it to the end in one go, and hence losing interest, than I am one for being too short. When the end isn't in sight I tend to lose the sense of purpose and direction.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 9 years ago
Throwing my 2 cents in.

The issue is not so much Quality as it is bang for your buck. In the days of Nintendo Famicoms I owned an extensive collection of cartridges. In the days of the Spectrum and C64 I owned a large cassette collection and I still have quite the PC collection gathering dust. These games came with a glossy printed manual telling the back story, a little trinket to keep and various incidental mood setters. I looked forward to the cloth maps from Ultima's and the strange booklets and pamphlets from an Infocom adventure or the great poems from an Ultimate Knightlore, Entombed etc. etc.

I wouldn't think of trading in those games as each one is a whole story or experience all it's own. This goes beyond the game and extends to the packaging and trinkets that went with them. Todays games come with the disk and if I'm lucky a single slip of paper with a health warning on it. To get slightly closer to the experience I used to have when buying a game, I need to fork out a silly amount of extra money for a "collectors edition". Even the name should have been enough to tell you guys that, that is the only version even meant to be kept by anyone and not simply traded once it's finished.

If we could re-capture that sense of wonder and pride of opening an Infocom or Ultima again, then trade-ins would likely fall dramatically but, that's unlikely as such packaging actually took effort to create and cost a few pennies extra to the publisher. There is no compelling reason to keep a disk in a box after you've finished it. There are few games that I or anyone else would bother playing again so without the extras as standard. It becomes common sense to simply trade them in towards the next new game and let someone else experience the soulless packaging and play through the sometimes excellent games within.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Peter Dwyer on 19th June 2013 1:38pm

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Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe9 years ago
Love Just Cause 2, absolutely brilliant game, have loads of fun when I play it.

However, I don't play it very often because it's so big I never feel I'm making much progress in it. I must have 20-odd hours logged in that game and it feels like I've barely made a dent in it. This is a bad thing in my mind - I don't want to feel like I'm pissing my leisure hours away on something I'm never going to finish; fun or not, nobody likes to feel their efforts are futile.

Maybe make Mad Max half as big and charge half as much? That would be an ideal scenario from my POV.

Also, any time I poke around secondhand games I see plenty of used copies of Just Cause 2...
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