Recently, I’ve talked about games growing in scale. Games are getting longer and longer, and games are becoming a “service” rather than a “product.” Game publishers feel that this is the way to combat ballooning development costs/budgets and maximize profits, but right not, games are mostly a cinematic, narrative-driven genre. Games, for the most, tell stories. There are exceptions (a notable one is one of the most popular games currently out there–Minecraft), but for the most part games tell stories. But there is a problem with this model.
Most people don’t FINISH the games that they buy.
Think that is an exaggeration? I’ve recently put a lot of time with Mass Effect Andromeda and looking at the Trophy data (Trophies/Achievements) on their respect platforms. As most games are narrative based, most games include data on the percentage (%) of people getting the trophies/achievements for the various story milestones and the data is more than surprising–it is almost shocking. As someone who tries diligently to finish (see the ending credits roll) for the games that I buy, I’m always surprised by the low completion of the story modes in games.
Except for the earliest trophies in the game, which are usually anywhere in the 90-80 percentile, as you get deeper and deeper into the game, the percentages fall, sometimes precipitously. For instance, ME:A has a trophy for completing what appears to be the middle of the game (Madera, the 4th major planet–the 3rd that you can put an outpost on). The world before has a trophy completion rate in the 70 percentile range. The trophy for Kadera is in the 30 percentile range. This is a drop of 50%. That means half of the people who bought the game stopped playing (for whatever reason) before the midway point.
Now here’s the problem, go to a Trophy Ranking site like PlaystationTrophies.org (or the X-Box equivalent) and you’ll find similar stats (maybe not as dramatic), but nearly every game that has a narrative, there is a decrease in the percentage of players earning trophies/achievements as the narrative progresses.
As games like Overwatch, Destiny 2, and now Anthem, embrace this game as “service” model, new narrative modes, or new ways of delivering narrative are going to have to devised in order to keep players attention and keep them invested in the game delivery platform.