Beat the Game

CNN of all places ran an interesting article the other day in their tech section regarding how often players finishes the video games they happen to purchase (you can read it here).  The title of the article kind of says it all as it asks why people don’t finish video games, conceding that not finishing them is already the norm.  There are some numbers thrown out suggesting less than 20% of gamers will play a game to completion, but there’s no hard data given.  The only example used is Red Dead Redemption which the article states that only 10% of people who purchased it played it through to completion.

Even though it was cited by many publications as the best game of 2010, the majority of gamers who purchased Red Dead Redemption never saw the game's conclusion.

A number of reasons are given.  One being that many gamers are only interested in multi-player (certainly true for many first-person shooters and PC games) so they ignore the single player modes.  Another is the short-attention span we seem to have developed as a culture where instant gratification is the name of the game.  One theory that surprised me centered on the average age of gamers; as we get older we have less time and my generation is really the first that grew up in an era where video games were a big piece of entertainment.  The premise didn’t shock me as for me it’s absolutely true, what shocked me was that the average age of gamers according to the article is 37!  There’s got to be some noise in whatever study was conducted to determine that.  I could accept low 30’s, but I personally don’t know anyone who is 37 or older and regularly plays games.  I’m guessing cell phone games are partly responsible.

Either way, a lot of these reasons seem viable as well as many others (we certainly have an over-saturated market when it comes to games these days) and got me to thinking about my own habits.  My first reaction was to consider myself an exception as I feel like I do finish most of the games I purchase, but I decided to do some research.  I tallied up all of the games I have owned at some point during this current generation.  I’m certain I probably forgot about a game or two here or there that I sold, but for the most part I tend to hang onto my games.  The consoles I own that I included in this elementary study include Playstation 3, Wii, DS, 3DS (including eshop Gameboy Color game Link’s Awakening), and the PSP.  I found my initial reaction was correct as it does appear to be the case that I finish more games than not, but my completion rate wasn’t as high as I would have thought.  The results by console:

PS3 – 68%  Wii – 46%  DS/3DS – 38%  PSP- 50%  Overall – 54% (33 out of 61)

Clearly, my PS3 has gotten more love than the rest, or it just has had the better games.  The PSP may have come in second, but I only have 4 games for that system so I wouldn’t read much into it.  Clearly, I’m not getting much out of the DS.  For the 3DS, I only have the two over the counter games I’ve mentioned before, Super Street Fighter 4 and Ocarina of Time.  For SSF4, I never beat it with every character so I do not consider it complete, but I have spent quite a bit of time with the game (19 hours to be exact).  For the regular DS though, I’ve only finished 3 games out of 9, and one was Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow where I stopped after getting the first (and worst) ending.  For whatever reason, portable games just don’t hold my interest.  Since I began taking the train to work over a year ago though I have spent more time playing portable games so my completion rate is bound to rise.  Of the games I own but have not beat, I would like to return to both Final Fantasy III and Dragon Quest V.  Neither game really grabbed me to the point where I was sucked in but I also didn’t dislike either one and would like to see them through.

I need to give this game another chance before giving up on ever completing it.

The Wii also had a poor showing, coming in at under 50%.  In the case of the Wii, it’s mostly just a lack of quality software and the novelty of waggle controls wearing off.  Some of the Wii games I have that I never finished (and actually barely played) include Madworld and Battalion Wars.  I don’t think either would ever be confused for great games, though both supposedly have strengths, I just never found the time to give them much of a chance.  One game I have not finished but am almost certain to some day is Super Mario Galaxy 2.  I loved the first one and demolished it, but the second just didn’t hook me.  Not because it’s bad, but just because the newness wore off.  I think I’m on the second to last level so whenever I put my mind to it I will finish it.  Another that I really need to give another chance is Metroid Prime 3.  Metroid is a great series, but I just don’t like first-person shooters.  However, I feel like I need to give the game a fair chance.  I think I’ve only played it twice and only faced one boss which certainly isn’t enough time to truly evaluate the title.  On the other hand, I could just download Super Metroid from the Wii Shop…

Obviously, I’ve finished more Playstation 3 titles than any other.  And some titles I excluded as they weren’t the kind you truly “beat” (MLB games, Warhawk, etc.) but there’s still some room for improvement.  There’s some games in there I need to revisit such as Little Big Planet and the Grand Theft Auto 4 add-ons, though at this point it seems unlikely.  One game I consider in progress is Infamous 2.  I received it as a gift just about 2 months ago and started playing it maybe a month ago (before that my time was being swallowed up by Zelda) so the jury is still out.  I will say it hasn’t sucked me in like the first one did.  It’s basically a carbon copy of the first game, just in a new setting with a couple new super powers for the protagonist to make use of.  One game I considered not finished is the last Smackdown vs Raw game and only because I didn’t play through all of the single player season modes.  I’ve done basically everything else in the game except finish one or two of those modes, but unfinished is unfinished.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, my completion percentage is what it is.  I suppose if I’m getting enough satisfaction out of the majority of the games I purchase then all is well.  Part of me does and always will feel like I wasted my money if I don’t beat a game, but I also recognize I just don’t have the time.  That’s not to say I couldn’t make the time if I really put my mind to it but then how much fun would I really be having?  Needless to say, I woudln’t expect these numbers to get any better for the majority of gamers.  If anything they’ll just continue to get worse and the only way they’ll improve is if the average length of games continues to shrink to the point where we’re beating games in one sitting.  I don’t really care, so long as the big “epic” titles do not vanish all together in place of 5 hour campaigns and paper thin narratives.

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