So here’s a troubling little nugget of information I ran into recently – many gamers don’t finish the games they buy… as in, an absurdly high percentage. According to Activision’s Keith Fuller, that number is a whopping 90%!
Sadly, that number seems to be largely correct, too. A lot of Steam games have achievements for beating the whole game, and those statistics are globally available. To give you an idea, here are the percentages of people who have beaten some popular games:
- A.R.E.S.: 11.8%
- Serious Sam 3: 30.0%
- Super Meat Boy: 6.0%/1.7% (light world/dark world)
- The Binding of Isaac: 39.7%/24.9%/12.8% (there are multiple final bosses)
As a developer, this is particularly worrysome to me. This means that a lot of the game’s content that we’re working so hard to make won’t ever be seen or experienced by a large majority of the players who pay their hard-earned money to play. By financing a lot of the game’s later content, I may as well be flushing money down the toilet.
“But Carn!” you might be saying. “That’s just from people buying or being gifted games and then not getting around to playing them! Once people start, they play to the end!” Sadly though, this is not the case! Using achievement statistics once again, as you recall, 30% of people who bought Seroius Sam 3 beat it. The number of people who beat the first level? 71.5%! This means that more than 40% of people who started playing it don’t end up finishing it! When’s the last time you went to see a movie, and 40% of people walked out before it was over?
Fact is, a lot of people are getting lost along the way from start to end – either because the game is too long, too difficult, not captivating enough, or some combination. Now, this is quite bad for developers because:
- Your players aren’t getting the full experience. If you’re building up to something amazing at the end of the game (be it the climax of the plot, some awesome gameplay mechanics, an amazing finale area, etc.), there’s a strong chance that it’s all for naught with a large percentage of your players.
- Budgeting concerns. If you’re giving the ending as much attention as you have for the rest of the game, and 90% of your players aren’t even going to see it, then do the math – you’re wasting a lot of time, effort, and money.
FUN FACT: At over 400 words, this article is now too long and you probably aren’t even reading this!
So what can be done to fix this? Look no further than the article title! Making games both shorter and easier should do a lot to fix that problem. Here’s how that would help:
- By making them shorter, you narrow your scope and allow the quality level to increase on the content that you’ve got. Generally, if you can make something shorter and better, that’s optimal. By offering people better quality, you’ll further captivate them and make them want to play to the end. Plus, the fact that it’s shorter will make it easier for them to do so with their busy schedules and other entertainment options.
- By making them easier, you take down a lot of the roadblocks that stand in people’s way of finishing a game. In the same way that people don’t go to movies looking for the most complex and difficult to follow plots in the history of the universe, most gamers aren’t looking for ultra-difficult games either that they can thump their chest about beating afterwards.
I know that this is something I’m seriously thinking about with Wrack. There’s so much to this game (new environments and gameplay mechanics every 2 levels or so with totally new stuff in each episode) that I’m beginning to wonder if I should reconsider some of what I’m doing. Should the full game of Wrack just be the first episode? Should the other episodes be strictly DLC? Should I turn it into a block-based exploration/building game?!
So, what do you think? I certainly don’t expect anyone to admit that games are too hard and you’d like for them to be easier, but how about games being too long? Which are the biggest offenders?
Let’s hear from you!