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.
“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.”
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.