Who Beats Games These Days? (2014)

Way back in August 2011, I wrote about a CNN article that stated only 10-20% of people who play a videogame end up finishing it. Some of the industry experts interviewed stated that this metric was behind the rise of shorter campaigns, a heavier focus on DLC, and so on. After all, if it takes 100 developers a year and a half to produce six hours of gameplay, why would they spend even more time/money on extending that out when 80%+ of their customers aren’t going to see it anyway?

Almost three years later, the completion rate has increased to about 30%.

Too bad those stats didn't apply to a better game...

And the other 47.4% did not miss a single thing.

There are caveats galore, of course. First, that series of infographics is damn ugly. Second, the research methodology is simply looking at Steam achievements, so it’s tough to say whether or not it’s representative of gamers as a whole (not that it’s claiming to be).

Third, and most amusingly, this research looks at and includes people who own the game and have yet to turn it on even once. It’s amusing because this isn’t as crazy as it sounds given Steam sales (and Humble Bundle, etc). But it’s still rather surprising for some games when you actually dig into Steam achievements on your own. For example:

And I thought that first achievement was a good joke...

And I thought that first achievement was a good joke…

I know Borderlands 2 was a part of a good Steam sale a few months back, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t end up on any bundle sites. In which case 24% of the people who own the game haven’t completed the very first quest, which is literally pressing E twice.

Of course, when I ran my Steam ID through this website, it indicated that out of the 385 games I own, I haven’t played 63% of them. In my defense… err… uh… I buy a lot of Humble Bundle-esque sales. And Steam didn’t track stats for some of those games I did play a long while ago, like Half-Life and Counter-Strike.

Incidentally, this is a major reason why I hate purchasing things at full MSRP. It is not really that $59.99 is some kind of insurmountable obstacle, but the reality for me is that I have enough games on Steam to last me until the heat death of the universe, and thus it’s difficult to justify purchasing more when I can reasonably wait for a price drop. And even when it’s something cheaper like Banished ($19.99) or Starbound ($14.99), it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me; I can just work on the backlog and save a few bucks later.

In any case, it’s heartening to know that the nightmare scenario of three years ago hasn’t occurred (yet?), and that it appears as though the indie side of things can prop up a lot of the longer-game space AAA has vacated. Still, as someone who endeavors to finish every game that I start even beyond the point of fun, this infographic is a sobering example that I might be well out of my mind.

Posted on April 2, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I finish most of the single-player games that I play, at least to some obvious end point (I’ll play through something like Torchlight 2 once but I won’t play the newly unlocked random content afterward). There are a few exceptions but in most cases I intend to go back and finish them, I usually had some non-game-related reason for stopping and lost momentum. My personal completion rate would be closer to 80%, I expect, of games that I actually bought with the purpose of playing, vs games that came with video cards, etc.


    • Yeah, my problem is that when I find myself in the mood to play a particular game, it usually isn’t on sale, and I thus regret not having purchased it when it was. For example: Titanfall. Thus, I end up going overboard when it comes to sales in anticipation for my desire to play the games purchased later. Which is as convoluted and silly as it sounds.


  2. I wish we had statistics on books. Over the years, I’ve purchased many, many books but have only finished a small percentage of them. Since moving to all digital books, I’ve made a point of trying to read everything I buy or at least have a good reason for giving up and moving on. I didn’t want a repeat of my Steam library.

    Once you take into account Steam sale prices, the cost of a new game and the cost of a new book aren’t too radically far apart.


    • My completion rate on books is much better, close to 100% in fact, but that is largely because I typically read them at zero cost (library, etc) and only when I’m in the mood for that particular one. I could end up playing 2-3 different games a night, depending on my mood.


      • That helps. In the olden times, I’d buy two or three books at a time to be prepared, but by the time I’d finish the first one, I’d be ready to move onto an entirely new one that had caught my eye.

        That’s the same trouble I get into with Steam sales!


    • Hmm, that’s a interesting point. I was thinking the other day that my completion rate on movies is easily 90%, if not higher, as opposed to my completion rate for games. The time requirement difference is an obvious factor, but I also think I won’t sit down to watch a movie that I think will be bad, whereas I will totally buy games that I think I may not like (if they’re cheap enough) just to try them.

      Same with books — I won’t start/buy a book if I am not confident that I’ll enjoy it.


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