Over at Computer and Videogames today, they have up an article by Pavel Barter on the apparent shrinking of PC games. Shrinking in terms of hours needed to finish.

It’s hard for me to tell if that’s true, since I haven’t been playing many games lately. Certainly, Eschalon: Book I wasn’t a long game of the kind we recall from the early days.

Then again, that was an indie product, not an “A-list” game. We tend to expect more from an “A” game, especially in the RPG department. Oblivion was a longish game, provided you ignored the main line for awhile and went off to do bunches of side jobs.

Neverwinter: The Movie wasn’t all that long; it was just those interminable cutscenes that made it seem to go on forever. Without those, one could have gotten through it in much less time.

Bioshock, I understand, is not a long game. And Portal seems to be quite short, only a few hours. I’d be interested to hear from those who played The Witcher and Depths Of Peril as to approximate playing time. Titan Quest I don’t have to ask about ;)

So maybe Pavel is right, and PC games are shrinking. I know we’ve talked before how older gamers don’t have the time anymore to indulge in weeks-long (or months-long) epics. And possibly the “younger generation” doesn’t have the patience.

If that’s the case, what does this mean for the future? I know I wouldn’t be too happy with a 15-hour RPG, not unless it had a lot of replayability. Especially not at today’s prices for an A-list game.

That does leave us with the indies, but I wouldn’t expect a game of very large scope from that corner (with the possible exception of Spiderweb). After all, indies don’t have the staffs or budgets to commit to a huge project. They can, of course, produce smaller games of good quality, and at a more reasonable price, too.

And with casual games being all the rage these days, I have the feeling that shorter games are what we’ll be seeing for some time to come. The games industry, like any other, is very much “monkey see, monkey do, follow the leader”. That’s on top of the way development costs continue towards the stratosphere, another factor to consider.

The article quotes Richard Garriott to the effect that the MMOGs have taken over in the “epic, long-term” area. Maybe so, but as I wrote in MP Games – Why I Don’t Play, the endless grind towards no real goal just leaves me cold. I’d never consider an online RPG as a replacement for one of the old Might & Magic or Wizardry games, to name a couple.

So, what do you think from your own experience? Is he right that the games are getting smaller? And what’s your take – I haven’t discussed this point here – on his thought that game size should be based on the content, rather than a pre-determined number of hours?

The Shrinking Size of PC Games on CVG