Metal Gear Solid V is finally upon us. Kojima’s last hurrah comes in the form of the biggest, most ambitious game the beloved franchise has seen to date, and will ever see, as Kojima says farewell to the company and the franchise. I’m certainly having a blast with it, but it’s made me think about something I never though I’d have to think about, at least in a Metal Gear game.
Is this too much?
I’ve played Sneaky Peeky V for a bit over 10 hours now, and while I’ve been enjoying myself immensely, I’ve barely made a dent in the content the game has to offer. This is insane, especially considering the traditional length of a game in the series. A quick HLTB (which I’m aware isn’t the most accurate but I’m using the tools at my disposal to the best of my abilities) search yields that the first game takes around 11 hours to beat, the second taking around 13, the third being around 16, and both Peace Walker and Guns of the Patriots taking around 18 hours. The numbers I’ve been hearing for Metal Gear Solid V? Anywhere from 50-100 hours, which, if you can do simple head math good, means MGSV is (depending on how you go through it) longer than all of the other Solid games combined. That’s bonkers, and it seems to demonstrate a bit of a problem I’ve been seeing in the industry lately, and specificity this year.
Lets take a look at the HLTB results for each major AAA release (no multiplayer focused games or re-releases) of this year so far, looking only at the main story.
- Bloodborne: 34.5 Hours
- Dying Light: 15 Hours
- The Witcher 3: 43 Hours
- Arkham Knight: 14.5 Hours
- Resident Evil Revelations 2: 9-24.5 Hours
- Until Dawn: 7.5 Hours
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: 50-100 (Press’s word, not HLTB.)
So not including a wealth of other games that released this year, to play the year’s seven biggest titles you will have needed (middling out the split numbers) 203.5 hours, or around 8.47 days, which is a lot, but chances are you aren’t just going to do the main story stuff in big games like The Witcher 3 and Arkham Knight. No, to see everything these games have to offer you’d need a whopping 459 hours, or 19.125 days, which may not sound like a lot, considering a year has 365 days in it, but it is.
The average person sleeps around 8 hours a night, giving us about 16 hours of awake time per day. That awake time times seven is 112 hours of consciousness per week. A workweek is 40 hours, so take that out of your time of consciousness and you get 72 hours of free time per week, or just 3 days, So in order to play all of those games to their fullest extent would mean spending all of your, yes you, average person, free time for 6.375 weeks straight, or a month and a half. And lets be real, work isn’t the average person’s only responsibility. Chores, family, friends, overtime, sexcapades, all of that takes a chunk out of the normal person’s free time, so in reality it would probably take a quarter to half a year of using all of your actual free time to play through all of these games, and for most of us, we don’t want to game 100% of the time we can. Sometimes we want to read a book, watch a show or movie, and for some of us even write, so that makes these numbers even more outrageous.
And all of that nasty (possibly incorrect, I’m not math magician) math isn’t even including games that haven’t released yet like Fallout 4, where we have people saying they’ve played the game for over 400 hours and still seeing new things. Games like Hitman, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and Just Cause 3 which are also supposed to be big, 100 hour open world experiences, and this is all in one year. Persona 5, if it decides to release this year, will be another game that will undoubtedly take 60+ hours.
And that’s fine, honestly. It’s by no fault of the game designer that an average person doesn’t have the time to play through all of their ambition. If anything the games that do this massive scale well are well worth your time. The Witcher 3 has substance through all of it’s story and side quests, and Persona 5 will likely be a true JRPG to the core. That’s great, but with these massive games comes a real problem.
Developers are boasting over a hundred hours of content for their games, but when you try to do all of these things it starts to feel more like chores than a video game. Ubisoft is a major offender of quantity over quality. Almost all of their games are “massive open world experiences,” with huge checklists of menial tasks that add little to no substance to the experience at large. They can not only be trivial and boring, but also feel out of place, such as racing across an island instead of saving your dying friends in Far Cry 3.
Even the best that these massive games have to offer fall victim to these checklists and out of place activities. The Witcher 3 has you checking off monster dens and doing horse races, while Metal Gear Solid V has base building and animal rescue. These things add little to no value to the game besides adding to playtime, and while they don’t really detract from the experience in these titles, other titles don’t fare so well.
Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed Unity feel entirely composed of these mundane activities, leaving you no incentive to explore and just run from the next story mission to the next until you’ve beaten the game. Games like Mafia 2 have no reason to be a large and empty open world, and these problems are glaring and just drag the experiences down immensely.
With this quantity over quality mentality that consumer value has imposed on developers, it makes me wonder if all of these games need to be big at all. More often than not I would rather have a tight and polished ten hour experience opposed to a buggy, fluffed out 100 hour experience. Regardless of the time I have to play these massive games, a lot of them just feel shallow, shooting for something that doesn’t really work.
Of course, you want your RPGs to be big, and so does the consumer, and you want your cover shooter to be short and linear, but when you make your RPG massive aim for The Witcher and not Far Cry. When you make your cover shooter shoot for a condensed product like Gears of War rather than Mafia 2. Not all games are meant to be expansive. Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us wouldn’t have had their gospel spread from the rooftops if all games were meant to be huge.
It’s a stretch, but this mentality could end up hurting the market. Gamers will no longer have the time or patience to play these massive titles, especially if they’re composed of 80% fluff, and they’ll just stop buying them. These games are getting tiring and samey, with universal crafting systems, skill trees, and similar mechanics and control schemes. They’re melding into a single genre, and it’s starting to get old. It’s something to think about next time you hear about a game lasting over 100 hours. Just think “do I really want this?” and maybe we’ll start to see more polish and originality, and a lot less fluff in the market.