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Standard Play Lengths — Point Line Square

Standard Play Lengths

February 23rd, 2010 — 12:15am

Are games converging on standard play lengths?  Other media forms have de facto ranges:  movies at 90-120 min, popular music at 2 – 4 min, concerts at 2 – 3 hours, etc.  There are plenty of exceptions, but even those are almost always within the same order of magnitude.

What about games?  Lighter, more casual fare allows for play sessions of a minute or two (everything from solitaire to various Facebook titles).  Many console titles ask at least 20 minutes of you.  And it’s hard to imagine having any meaningful experience in World of Warcraft in less than an hour.  These all feel a bit muddier than other media types though, and there’s no consistency across a given platform or market segment (i.e. the ranges are huge compared to movies, music, et al).

Does this lack of clarity help or hurt games?  Does it create tension for the user to not know in advance what they’re getting into?

Or have we gotten to a point where people do have expectations associated with a given platform or segment, even if many games aren’t following those standards?  Are they then disappointed when it doesn’t match, or worse, do they not bother to try a game because they assume all titles in that category require a certain time commitment?

I do think standard play lengths are a potential problem for all media forms going forward.  The interesting question to ask though, is whether consumers are helped or hurt by these formalized expectations (or for that matter, whether content creators benefit from these implicit constraints).

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