NAG Online > News > Most gamers just don’t finish their games, apparently

Most gamers just don’t finish their games, apparently

borderlands 2 ellie

In a rather amusing and surprising speech given at Game Developer’s Conference which is currently being held in San Francisco, California until 21 March, Riot Games’ Narrative Lead Tom Abernathy and Microsoft Games Studios’ Design Lead Richard Rouse revealed to the world following a study what a glance at a few gamer’s Steam profiles could have told you – that gamers are no longer “completionists” and that most players, in fact, never get to finishing the story or main campaign of the title they bought.

Shocking, right? You know it’s the truth when that unplayed Steam library glares at you.

The duo said that the biggest reason why players don’t complete games isn’t because of poor gameplay or the adventure or even if the graphics look bad – it’s the characters that keep people coming back for more. Abernathy and Rouse assert that what might be considered a good storyline for a game isn’t what necessarily makes players return to their virtual playgrounds, but the emotional connection that people have with the characters is a bigger draw and a deeper hook that needs to be pulled.

According to game completion statistics leeched from Valve, because they are one of the few companies who actually track this properly, gamers typically don’t complete the majority of the games in their library. Completion for Valve’s purposes includes only finishing the main campaign of a game, not the bag of achievements that people spend hours to collect or the multiplayer portions which don’t always work in all genres.

How can anyone not love and complete Portal?

How can anyone not love and complete Portal?

“Statistically, most players don’t finish games. We’ve seen numbers that say something like a third [do finish games], on average,” said Rouse in his presentation. According to a list of games the two picked out for their study, as much as 68% of gamers who bought Skyrim never finished it. A short games list is presented below along with their completionist scores that forms part of Abernathy and Rouse’s work;

  • The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 1 – 66%
  • Mass Effect 2 – 56%
  • BioShock Infinite – 53%
  • Batman: Arkham City – 47%
  • Portal – 47%
  • Mass Effect 3 – 42%
  • The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 5 – 39%
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 32%
  • Borderlands 2 – 30%

Abernathy, in his part of the presentation, said that game development is in a peculiar place right now and the amount of gamers who buy games and never finish them is increasing every day. “Users don’t remember plot; what they do remember is they remember characters,” he suggested. “Focus on the things that they will retain, that are going to be most important to them in the long-run, focus on character.”

I guess almost half the people who didn't complete Bioshock Infinite won't understand why it's crucial to understanding the first two games.

I guess almost half the people who didn’t complete Bioshock Infinite won’t understand why it’s crucial to understanding the first two games.

Looking at my Steam and Origin libraries, I do have a bit of a backlog to get through and much of it was accumulated from a handful of Humble Bundle sales. In Origin, the only games I haven’t finished are Crysis, Crysis: Warhead and Crysis 3 (which, in my defense, broke my savegames when I had to benchmark it and I didn’t find time to pick it up again). Abernathy and Rouse’s statistics also don’t take into account games that are bought to be the foundations for mods like DayZ so there is some scope for a tighter reworking of their theories if you have to take those games into account.

But barring that, we’re all guilty of having a backlog. How many games do you still have left to finish? Which ones keep you coming back for more and which ones drive you away? Let us know in the comments below and in our forums.

Source: IGN

Discuss this in the forums: Linky

  • BinaryMind

    People didn’t finish Mass Effect 2?!!!! Wow. I couldn’t stop that game once I started. But that was before Humble Bundle.

    I blame the Humble Bundle for all this! It’s too much! I’m suffocating under all these awesome games!

    • Wesley Fick

      Some people cannot handle the idea of FemShep and Garrus… xD And some people, including me, are slightly weirded out by Miranda as well.

      • Squirly

        And some still got bored with the broken as hell paragon/renegade system which made most choices mindless and/or not choices at all. I have both ME 1 and 2 and I only finished 1. ME 2 is where the series lost me.

        • BinaryMind

          I must admit I lived the first game the most. Everything except the broken inventory. Story was great and I actually really liked the Mako, even though it seems almost everyone hated it :P

          • Squirly

            Hey I liked the Mako too! *high five* That godawful mineral scanning game in the second game was the worst. Worse than the inventory from the first game, mostly because of that scanning sound that eventually started grating so badly.

          • BinaryMind

            Awesome! :D Yeah that Mass Effect 2 mining was really bad. I don’t know how that got put in the game without one of the devs saying that it’s extremely boring. With the Mako, you could at least drive around and explore a little. Man, I’m getting the urge to play that game again (ME1)… but can’t right now – stupid day time job.

          • Aidan van der Nest

            I actually just finished playing ME1 (for the hundredth time) last week. Almost done ME2 again. My favourite series of games by far. I understand though, about the mineral scanning. It’s annoying the living crap out of me. Actually wishing I could just get back in the Mako.

          • BinaryMind

            Yeah. ’tis really good :D

  • PicklePod

    There was an article on the website about player actions and intentions becoming disjointed from the storyline, and I think that is part of the reason why many may not like a story and not finish a game.
    idk if GTA has a high percentage of people that didn’t finish, but the world is quite immersive, from you being reckless which ties in with the story, to even the radio that makes just moving around in the game nice and gives a good. You also have some choice in how to tackle missions
    Also, often you can’t control the story. You have a vague idea of what the situation is, but you don’t care, only important thing is what to do to progress, and so you are just dragged through the story. If more stories required you to pay attention in order to progress, people might feel more connected to the story as they had a part in shaping it like they shape their character’s equipment loadout for a mission, which is why the characters and items are more memorable

  • Nadine

    You can’t finish skyrim. Some quests (like companions or thieves guild or dark brotherhood and all that) continue without end. Plus, how do you finish it. Hm? How!?

  • Bianca

    Still haven’t finished skyrim. It didn’t grab me like Oblivion did. That game made me want to complete every Expantion and mission. Skyrim… not so much

  • rooislangwtf

    Sometimes you only find out you don’t like a game after playing it for a couple of hours.

  • Young Kef

    Why lie, I still need to finish God of War 3 :/. But in my defence, I blame Madden NFL, the Assassin’s Creed series, InFamous 1 & 2, Mass Effect 2, Crysis 2 and the Uncharted Trilogy for that

    • Pulseofthe Maggot


  • El Capitan del Blade

    NOT to blow my own horn, but when I buy a game, I make damn sure I finish it (or in the case of an open ended game, a la Skyrim) I at least finish the main Story.

  • R4mzy

    I’m guilty of not finishing many games. There’s Skyrim (but it’s hard to feel guilty about that when I *did* sink 120+ hours into it…), all three BioShocks, Borderlands 2 (I just don’t have enough time in the week to play co-op games and my friends played on without me, so… :/… And then there was all that damn DLC…), Arkham City I’m still busy on… There are many more, but frankly I’m resigned to not ever getting to a lot of them. And if only one or two games in a Humble Bundle give me some hours of entertainment, the purchase feels worthwhile to me. They’re cheap enough like that.

    • BinaryMind

      Borderlands 2 had an overwhelming amount of DLC. It just ended up being too much for me. Won’t be playing those :)

  • Xelus

    To be quite frank, I’m not at all surprised by this, considering that every damn game these days are multiplayer only and that most developers have an obsession with online “social interaction”, so when you do get a campaign or single player game, people won’t finish it because they’ve been forced to an extent to accept multiplayer games as the norm.

    That said, for the most part, there is but a handful of games out there that has a proper storyline and the characters don’t feel emotionless and dead.

  • XceL

    So many games, so little time…

  • Aidan van der Nest

    Well I’m proud to say I’ve finished all of the titles in the article, except Skyrim (because, quite frankly, all I wanted to do was slay dragons and I forgot there was a story).

    • slhavec

      so basically you cant say proudly that you finished EVERY game in the list. weeeeelll

      • Aidan van der Nest

        Your powers of deduction confound me. You must feel really smart. Read the sentence again. I’ve finished every game EXCEPT Skyrim. There’s a reason clauses exist: So that I don’t have to list every game already stated, and instead just list the one I haven’t finished…

  • Miktar Dracon

    Most people don’t finish their games.
    Reality: Most games aren’t that good or worth finishing.

    • XCal1bur

      Or they have so much content you lose yourself in it for hundreds of hours and never think of finishing the main plot (Until much much later, when you really have to talk yourself into finishing it). Which has happened to me at times.
      Yet this % thing taking in millions of gamers is really sooo vague. If almost half or more than half of 2million people finished the game it equates to 1 million+ people who finished the game. I’ve said this before, but seriously does this then warrants the removal of epic story and plot? Not by long shot.

      • Miktar Dracon

        Personally, the less “epic story and plot” a game has, the more I like it. If a game is trying to be more of a movie than a game, it should just be a damn movie. I want games to be games, personally – systems that are interesting to learn and fun to play. Tetris, Soul Calibur, etc.

        Things like Last of Us, while mechanically competent and with an interesting story, holds *zero* appeal to me. Same with Skyrim – lots of vapid, shallow “content” that amounts to nothing, in a big open world of nothing, with horrible combat that amounts to nothing. No thanks.

        Give me a tight, well-designed game where player skill *matters*, like Dark Souls or Bayonetta, any day.

        • XCal1bur

          So you fall into the half that doesn’t finish games I assume. Well that’s all fine by me, but what is not fine by me is the idea that maybe that half of gamers will cause games to lose the one thing the first half ONLY play games for. Story.
          No offense but if that day comes because of the half of gamers that don’t finish games for your reason, I will and I mean that day I WILL blame them for taking away something I treasure.

          • Miktar Dracon

            Big assumption, and you’re wrong. I’m in the half that *does* finish games because we value games for more than just being a movie you press A over and over to get through.

            It’s the “wants games to be glorified movies” crowd that rarely finishes games, because a) the instant they come up against challenge they quit or b) they get bored halfway through when they lose interest in the “epic dramatic fanfiction plot” or from just pressing A for four hours to see the next cutscene.

            I value stories in games. Games like 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, Outcast, Chrono Trigger, are some of the most important games in my collection and I’ve finished them multiple times.

            I just don’t *buy* games I likely won’t finish.

            But if people like YOU who value “epic plotz” over gameplay make them remove gameplay from games, I’ll be righteously pissed. (See how easy it is to throw assumptions around).

            I’m not saying there needs to be less story in games. Nothing of the sort. Gaming is a medium, it can do anything the artist wants it to. But it’s not a zero-sum situation either, you can have BOTH games that are pure games (notice how tennis or soccer doesn’t have epic plots with dragons, though that would be cool), and you can have ‘press A to awesome’ interactive movies like Heavy Rain. Neither one is “true” gaming, just like there’s no true style in painting or music.

            But not every game deserves to be finished. Also, the study that looked at how many people finished games was super flawed. They looked at achivements. I finished Half Life 2 before they even ADDED achievements to it, so now I count as one of those who never finished it.

            Also, Dark Souls has a better story that Skyrim. It’s also a better *game* than Skyrim, which is why I’ve finished it several times, and bought the sequel day one.

          • XCal1bur

            I’m sorry for my wrong assumption, that is indeed why I added the word in the first place so as not to make it a fact that I maybe believed you are from that half. So I apologize for my wrong assumption, I really do.

            On a second point I never even once said I wanted gameplay gone, in fact I will quote what I said, “Yes, I like gameplay as much as the next person.” But I also have to admit I won’t buy a game solely based on it. I need story, and great gameplay is the glossy finish that complete the picture of a glorious masterpiece. Let’s look at Beyond two souls for a moment. While the story interest me some, the whole passive gameplay does not, so I would be hard pressed to buy that game.

            The last of Us appealed to me because the characters were very interesting and the gameplay looked tense. Demon souls is on the other end of the spectrum for me, it lacked real concrete story in favor of intense gameplay. I am hesitant to go that direction. But I would be lying if I said I would rather buy beyond two souls over this series…because something in me resonates with RPG’s (Be it choice, be it big worlds to explore, or be it epic stories around these worlds that you experience.) So yes I would rather buy demon souls or dark souls in that regard. But still there is this story there in this hard harsh world. Without that story, it would be bare bones and I would not be interested, lore makes a world believable(like you are fighting for a reason).

            If RPG’s lost that essence of lore behind their big worlds it would be a sad day, that is my point.

            I have to apologize once more, I’m not one who in real life get agitated about these kinds of ideas. I’m actually a very chill person, but text really gives off a hostile feeling without body language to support it. Anyway my overall point from the beginning was I would really be sad if great games lost their stories (especially if it is because of an in a way flawed stats report).

          • Miktar Dracon

            Don’t worry. There will always be games that put story first.

  • slhavec

    news flash. I don’t finish games because of boring story line or crappy gameplay. how could you relate to chars in starcraft2??? you cant. it was the actual gameplay and not the gay-play. starcraft one didn’t have good graphics. but really. let look at COD. how often can you play a game that is just normal war with flashy explosion. focus on a story line and throw in a twist or six. and make the gameplay awesome. and not a gameplay for noobs that complain about everything. older days you didn’t ban the magnum sniper rifle in cs 1.6 for being overpower. or banned people for killing you thru the wall. NOOOOOO. you practiced till death until you are better then the guy with the magnum. the reason why indie games are becoming more popular is not because a relatable character or amazing graphics. no. its because of the gameplay and people knowing what they want so they rather create it themselves rather then wasting money hoping it might be the next best thing. hope these so called professionals here our cries and start focusing on compelling back story and gameplay. did you really need a compelling back story to play donkey kong???? no you twat it was the gameplay that mattered.

  • XCal1bur

    Skyrim? Um…. yeah I didn’t finish it. But 300hours of gameplay don’t count because I didn’t finish the main quest yet….. Yes the world make sense now….not ^.^

  • Carl

    I’m still in High school and in gr.12 now. So I have quite a backlog on my Steam Library (also due to the amazing humble bundle’s and steam sales). I just don’t get the time to actually sit and spend 3 hours playing one game. For my a game is an experience and I want to get “into” the gaming world and live and breathe within that word and that requires playing for a long time, which I don’t have at the moment. luckily the vacation is just around the corner and I’ll be able to finally finish Skyrim (So hard not to side track with side missions though).

    • Carl

      I also think that why people don’t finish games is that when they are half way with their current game, a new more “shiny” game comes along and steals your attention and then you just forget about the other game until a few ages later when you stumble across it again.

  • Silver Flame

    I agree whenever I play a game on console I will 90% of the time finish it unless it was just so terrible i could not progress further I’m looking at you Aliens Colonial Marines -_- But whenever i go on steam i realize that i have only scratched the surface of my 250+ games. I assume that with the major sales that we get on pc we buy so much for so little and are often confused as to what to play :p I’m deciding on whether to play; Bioshock Infinite, Hitman Absolution, Darksiders 2, Brutal legend, Farcry 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Rage, Shadow Warrior, South Park the Stick of Truth, Tomb Raider, Skyrim, The Withcer 2… just to name a few. But when your on console games are so expensive that you have limited choice so you can easily say Oh, I feel like playing Killzone Shadowfall” and that’s that :P


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