Xbox PC Now Says How Long It Takes Beat Games, Which Is Tricky

A Skynrim shot of a village with the HowLongToBeat data at the bottom.

screenshot: Bethesda/Kotaku

The way people judge their video games is varied, and few agree on solid rules for what really adds value to play time. But one of the most controversial is certainly the length of a game. And now, “how long to beat” is a metric Microsoft just added to its PC version of the Xbox app.

in the the latest update on Microsoft’s Xbox Wire blog, the company announced that it has just added “HowLongToBeat” to its PC Xbox app to promote it as the basis on which people should make decisions. They explain that this is “a unique feature that makes it even easier to choose your next PC game”.

Aside from obviously not being unique in any way (– inevitably owned by IGN(Owner Ziff Davis – who Microsoft is collaborating with on this, which has been around for over a decade and Steam has stats like this), it’s fair to say that this metric is being utterly abused by people who confuse length with quality could.

To Microsoft’s credit, they don’t engage in the worst aspect of such thinking, where value = gameplay / price. The post explains that they see this as a way to decide “if you’re in the mood for something to crush in a day or two, or maybe looking for your next long-term game.” And while I’d sever a limb if I could just convince this industry to use words like “beat” and “crush” instead of “play,” they at least suggest that brevity has value, too.

Continue reading: How to calculate the true value of a game based on its price and length

It would be disingenuous to say that the response to this announcement was not positive. Replies and replies on Twitter are generally celebratory, with many begging for the same to be integrated on the Xbox console. Some are a cause for concern, especially when it comes to those making shorter games.

“Not a big fan tbh” said BioWare Art Supervisor Ryan DownlingSoka as answer to a tweet from waypoints Patrick Klepek. “I think the ‘short game isn’t worth the money’ is already a big thing and that’s going to make it grow.”

However, Gloomwood developer said Nate Berens He believes mentioning a game lasts less than two hours in its description helped prevent refunds.

Kimmo Lahtinen, developer of day repeat day and barbear told me that they see it positively. “Players are generally happier the more realistic their expectations are.”

The problem with such statistics, however, is that they can deviate from the truth too easily. As a game critic, I’m aware of how much even other game critics lie about how long it took them to complete a game. If you write that a difficult game took you 12 hours, you can get vitriol bombarded by people who finished it in 9, so people shave a few hours off just to be safe. Players do the same and don’t want to appear as if they have problems. And honestly, who sits there with a stopwatch while playing? Does it count if you stop for a coffee? What if the doorbell rings? Not to mention the silliness of relying on console or Steam clock times, since they usually keep running when a game is paused.

I just checked and you can make up any number you want for HowLongToBeat – I just said I was done Stray in an hour, but it took 1,223 hours to reach 100% and that was unquestionably added to the overall game stats. (I deleted that immediately, of course.) This is the only explanation I can think of as to how Minecraft Dungeons is currently listed as five hours long. Eh, no.

The new Xbox PC app store screen with HowLongToBeat data.

screenshot: Microsoft

At best, a HowLongToBeat statistic gives you a very general idea of ​​the type of game you’re dealing with. Is it two hours or forty? And in general it’s pretty good at it. Right now, the front page tells you that elden ring will probably take you 52 hours to complete the main story during Spiderman‘s narration offers around 17 hours. But there are so many games where such measurements just don’t work.

Take for example spelunky. A game in which most people cannot leave the second world is listed as “19 hours” for its main story. An endless game like The Sims 4 somehow has a number of “67 hours”. Strangely, the site even reports times for MMOs such as Eve onlineis wonderfully specific “2,896 hours”. (Since you’re wondering World of Warcraft is 2,364 hours long.)

Then there’s the inevitable way does Bias towards shorter games. If someone sees that something is only a few hours old, are they less likely to buy it? Are all-time classics like fire clock, day of the tentacleor ABZÛ worth less because they’re under six hours? When placed next to a similarly priced roguelite, aren’t they or their modern equivalents far more likely to be overlooked for their low single-digit “beat” time? Some will no doubt be thrilled to know that a short game can fit into their daily lives, but there’s a reason the industry is collapsing under the weight of live service games that never end. People like the idea of ​​”more” even though they may never reach the 200th hour Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

a twitter user, @MOOMANiBE, observed another peculiarity of this update. Within the Xbox Wire post is a direct link to a new section of HowLongToBeat specifically, gathering information about Game Pass games. It’s a really useful resource, as luck would have it, but as the developer of Ivy Road Games points out, it also includes a front-page section titled “Got Bad” with games like The anacrusis at 43% and Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition simultaneously. Except if you click through the latter, you’ll find that these numbers are based on a grand total of two Reviews, one gave it 1/10, another 7/10. To the anacrusisChet Faliszeks left 4 Dead Follow up, it’s three ratings at 3, 4 and 6 out of 10. Surely Microsoft wouldn’t want it to stay that way?

Whatever your thoughts, the news is no doubt resonating well online so far. It will be fascinating to see how developers think about whether it will prove to be a blessing or a burden over the next few weeks.