Watch the video above from PBS Game/Show, because it's the jumping off point for our discussion. It also sums up my thoughts on the topic better than I could down here, but I still want to talk about it.
OK, it's interesting to look at what the value of game length is for developers and publishers. Most people don't finish most games. It takes time and money to make games. People want to buy long games, and often the length of that game, or the content in it, is a data point that goes into the decision about whether or not they buy that game.
So are developers stuck creating content at great cost just to tick off that check box even though everyone knows that most people won't see or play that content near the end of the game?
It's a depressing thought, a sort of gaming ouroboros of wasted time for both the developer and player, but that serves to entice someone to make a purchase.
Any free time you spend playing games is time you're not spending doing anything else, and it's hard to give the time to finish one game when you know that time could have been spent reading three books, or watching an entire season of a great show. If you want one story, and to be satisfied by it, games are incredibly inefficient.
Are developers stuck creating content at great cost just to tick off that check box?
People like to say that games are getting shorter, and this is a bad thing, but the data doesn't support that view of the industry. A shorter game can be made for less money which leads to lower prices which means more people buy it ... and so on. But it's also tricky to assume you know what other people want out of their games. Maybe they want to buy one or two games a year that will last nearly forever. In that situation, long games are the best.
But the fact remains that most people don't finish most games. It's hard to argue with that reality.
There's no one solution, nor should there be. Some people love short games, and some devs make short games. The same can be said for long games. There's enough to go around.