Reader Discussion: Should the Price and Length of a Game Go Hand in Hand?

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the prequel for the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, releases today for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 and some of the bigger gaming sites have already published their reviews, confirming that the campaign only took roughly 3 hours to complete. With that in mind, I thought this would be an interesting topic for conversation between our writing staff and you, our readers.

Ground Zeroes will run you $29.99 for a physical copy on your console of choice, but you have the option to save $10 if you buy it as a digital download for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, thus knocking it down to $19.99 on last-gen consoles. Since we’re using this game as the basis for our discussion, both reviews that I linked above claim that the overall length of the campaign lasts about as long as the tanker scenario in the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2, so it’s somewhere between 2.5 to 3 hours of gameplay.

I guess a good starter question here would be “do you think $30 is a reasonable price for a game that lasts around 3 hours?“, and that answer is going to vary from gamer to gamer.

Whether you answered yes or no, drop us a comment below and let us know why. We’re all really curious as to how the gaming crowd will react to the price of Ground Zeroes versus the overall length, but we’re also interested in how you gauge what a game is worth based on the overall amount of time you’ll stick with it.

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In Kotaku’s review, Kirk Hamilton used an interesting analogy where he compared Ground Zeroes to eating at a fancy restaurant.

So, okay, let’s do that: You’re at one of those restaurants where they serve gourmet food in very small portions. You’ve been given your entree—a intricate thing that looks as much like an exotic flower as a meal—and you take the first bite. It’s delicious! You begin to cautiously dig in, ever mindful of the fact that this… well, this is all there is. Soon it’ll be gone, and it’s a long wait for the next course.

That’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes: An often beautifully constructed game that for all its good ideas and slick execution remains quite obviously a sliver of a larger, more complete game.

-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com

For me, I’m a meal over experience guy when it comes to food. I could never fathom paying $80 for the perfect steak when I know I could go elsewhere and be just as satisfied for under $20, and I guess it’s no different when it comes to video games. Gaming can be an expensive hobby, especially when you’re part of a team that tries to play as many different games as possible for the purpose of blogging, so when it boils down to buying versus renting a game, the amount of content has to make sense to me. I’ll typically rent last-gen games from Red Box and any current-gen game from Gamefly rather than dropping $60 on something I’m not so sure of, and I’ll probably do so for Ground Zeroes on Xbox One.

Now the topic of this discussion isn’t just about Ground Zeroes, but more so the general question of whether or not the length of a game should alter the overall cost. With that in mind, I’ll provide a couple of examples.

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My first example actually stems from a Facebook comment conversation that I had with The Arab Gamer about the same topic, and he mentioned paying full price for Ico back when it launched for the Playstation 2 in 2001 and was totally okay with that. If you’re familiar with Ico, you’ll remember that it was met with much fanfare, yet clocked in at only 3 hours.

Personally, Ico is in my top 5 PS2 games of all time and I don’t regret paying full price for it at launch in the slightest, but another thing to consider is that this may have been the norm in 2001, but we also didn’t have a thriving indie market or Steam at the time that offered any other alternative. I grew up in the NES generation and I remember spending $60 or $70 for games like Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse that I could beat in two or three hours, but it was also normal back then to beat games over and over again.

I respect his answer completely, but times are different now. If Ico released today there is no way I would pay $60 for it if I knew it would all be over in a matter of 3 hours, especially when we have so many alternatives to play instead that would give us a little more bang for our buck. But again, I’m a meal over experience guy.

Replay value is probably a big deal to a lot of gamers since not everyone can afford to buy everything they want to play, and that’s a solid point to consider. Ground Zeroes campaign may only clock in at 3 hours, but there are optional side-ops missions that add to the length of the game. Going back to the Kotaku review again, Kirk Hamilton mentions that he only invested 2 hours in to the side-ops missions which would bring the overall length of the game to roughly 5 hours.

Ryse Execution

This brings me to my next example, the Xbox One exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome. While the campaign in Ryse may only last around 5 hours, the game does offer a healthy amount of replay value with collectibles, different degrees of difficulty and, most importantly, its solid co-op multiplayer offering in the Colosseum. If you’re only interested in the campaign portion of the game, $60 may not be worth 5 hours of your time, but if you enjoy hopping online with friends and hacking up a few pagans, you’ll have your money’s worth in no time.

New Super Luigi U is another good example, as it originally released as DLC for New Super Mario Bros U for $19.99. Nintendo eventually released a stand-alone physical release for $29.99, which is the same cost as Ground Zeroes in both formats — physical and digital. New Super Luigi U lasted about 5 hours if you just wanted to blow through all 90-ish levels one time, but you’ll get more than double that if you’re a completionist, so your mileage may vary.

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Ground Zeroes has been compared to playing a demo of the real deal (being Phanton Pain), but our own Miles brought up Dead Rising 2: Case Zero being a little more accurate of a comparison. Case Zero was a prequel for Dead Rising 2, similar to how Ground Zeroes leads up to Phantom Pain, but the costs are far from similar. While Ground Zeroes sits at $20-$30, Case Zero launched at 400 MS points, which only converted over to a whopping $5. Even their length is similar, with Case Zero clocking in around 3 hours for the campaign and about 1.5 hours for optional content.

So let’s hear it. Is $30 worth 3-5 hours of gameplay, and if so, why? Is it because it’s Metal Gear Solid or because you honestly feel that it’s a fair price? If you’re on the opposing side, why not? Is it because $30 can land you maybe 2 solid indie titles on Xbox Live, the Wii U eShop or on PSN (we won’t mention the amount of games you could probably snag on a Steam bundle)?

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20 comments

  1. This is another tale in the price versus value argument. It boils down to personal opinion in the end. I thought $15 for Journey was expensive for a sub two hour game but after playing several times over I feel it was well worth it. Then take Beyond: Two Souls retailing for $60 and lasting about twenty hours but worth almost nothing. These are reasons I don’t want to see the used game market die. I like getting classic games or games I never got to play for cheap. I don’t mind $60 games but it comes down to whether I feel I got $60 worth of value from it.

    1. The definition of “value” is definitely going to differ from person to person. I paid $14.99 for Limbo and beat it in 3 hours, but I ended up loving the game and the overall experience. I don’t need a game to be longer just for the sake of being longer.

    2. Personally, I’d rather pay $60 and play a game that’s incredibly for six sweet hours, than grind through a game that’s 60 hours with only a few memorable moments. Longer doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to game design.

  2. It’s something you have to judge on a case by case basis. In my latest review I mentioned feeling a little short changed as the game only lasted me eight hours. Then again I grew up playing games like Streets of Rage, which were short but I didn’t mind as I replayed them so many times. You also want to avoid padding things out to justify the asking price. Some gamers would have preferred a shorter/less repetitive Bravely Default for example.

    1. Bravely Default is a solid example as it had a lot of backtracking filler for no other reason than to backtrack and add time to the clock.

      A case by case basis will always be the way to go, and going back to Metal Gear as an example, $20 is a good starting point for 3-5 hours of gameplay as long as the experience is good.

      South Park: The Stick of Truth is another good example as a lot of gamers felt that 12 hours was too short for an RPG and $60 was a bit too much for that experience, but had it not been an RPG does that make it okay? RPG’s have developed this stigma that they have to be extremely long epic tales, but I guess that’s another post for another day.

  3. Although such a practice would make Games like COD MW3(8 Hours) dirt cheap….it would hike the price of JRPGs to un-affordable rates. I think all games should be 10$ cheaper than what they are, but thats just my opinion. I still would pay 60$ for GTA 5 and Disgea4 😀

    1. COD offers an in-depth multiplayer that could (and does) satisfy gamers for a pretty hefty amount of time. Even if you don’t buy it for the multiplayer, the content is still there on the disc. I guess I was more so pointing out games like Xbox’s Black or PS2’s ICO that deliver 2-3 hour games with no other option but to play the campaign over and over again.

      If that were the case though, man, JRPGs would cost ridiculous amounts lol. Especially ones like Disgaea or Dragon Quest that you could easily sink 80-100 hours on without even touching optional stuff.

      $60 is a good price if the game offers a great experience and gives me a reason to keep it, like Ryse’s co-op multiplayer. I know lots of folks who were pissed to finish the campaign in 5 hours, but I’ve beaten it twice and put a good amount of time in to the Colosseum.

  4. At my local GameStop, the price of Xenoblade Chronicles was $90 (which I believe has come down since then). To me, that is ridiculous, and though I know the reason for the price wasn’t because of length, but I would hardly ever pay that much for a game I’m taking a chance on, even if others loved it.

    So yeah, I think it comes down to individual value. I love steam sales, and to me, I don’t think many games are worth more than $30 bucks. Titanfall is another game I want, but don’t want to spend full price on.

    I did, however, spend full price on Dark Souls 2, and haven’t regretted it, so yeah, values.

    1. I picked up Xenoblade when it released at $49.99 and it was worth every penny, but I remember when Gamestop started reprinting copies of that and Metroid Prime Trilogy on the Wii to sell for extravagant amounts.. and that was pretty ridiculous.

      With so many games coming out, I usually only pay full retail for select titles that I’m really, really interested in and then just wait on price drops. Even then, I’ll prioritize the games that will last me a while. The last games I paid full price for were Dark Souls 2 and Super Mario 3D World, both of which offer tons of content or mass amounts of replay value. I also happily paid $62 for a used copy of New Super Mario Bros U that had New Super Luigi U on the disc. I agree with you that it’s all about personal value.

      1. It’s hard to really get RPG reviews going on an indie blog since we’re forced to buy the game on its release date just like you guys, and then muscling through it as fast as possible just to get a review up in a relevant time frame.

        I know Miles, Anthony and I have all been playing it, and I don’t think any of us are close enough to beating it at this point to get a review up, but weirder things have happened.

      2. Usually we’ll review something if we can get it finished off within a few weeks of its release, but it just came out at a bad time since most of our writing staff are currently living on Titanfall. I will definitely keep you posted though.

      1. For what it’s worth though, I was a big fan of Dark Souls but I haven’t really been grabbed by Dark Souls 2 yet. In Dark Souls, dying was welcome as I learned from mistakes and it made me a better player, but in Dark Souls 2 I’m finding the controls to be a bit clunky. So much so that I’ve had my fair share of missed jumps from its poor platforming controls and have gotten wrecked by many an archer that I can’t seem to actually lock on to from less than 5 feet away. The game portion of it is pretty okay so far (at 6 or 7 hours in), but I’m not really enjoying its quirky and questionable control scheme.

        Also, is it just me or does Dark Souls 2 look worse than Dark Souls? Maybe I’m just not used to seeing the Dark Souls universe in this much sunlight lol.

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