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Up To 90% Of Players Aren't Completing Games: CNN

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A great article from CNN this week explores an interesting phenomenon, an epidemic of players not finishing the games they buy, that may be indicative of a growing trend in gaming: Many gamers are getting too old to have the time to finish a 40-hour campaign any more.

As the article points out, the average age of American gamers is now thirty-seven. Thirty-seven. Let's hold on to that for a moment and remember the days when people said video games were just for kids. But back on point: This means that a good half, if not more, of the US gaming population is pushing mid-life - the time for kids, demanding jobs, and more commitments than there are hours in the day. These gamers, raised on Atari and the NES, are now in the prime of their busy adulthood. So it would make sense they're having trouble finding the time, no?

Indeed, the CNN article quotes various industry sources who claim that games these days have an average completion rate of somewhere between 10-20% meaning that, on the optimistic end, one in five games purchased is actually finished. Of course, you might question whether it's the quality of the games that depresses these numbers (and that is likely an on-going factor, as anyone who has been fooled into buying a crappy game will attest), but:

...it's not just dull games that go unfinished. Critically acclaimed ones do, too. Take last year's "Red Dead Redemption." You might think Rockstar's gritty Western would be played more than others, given the praise it enjoyed, but you'd be wrong. Only 10% of avid gamers completed the final mission, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions. Let that sink in for a minute: Of every 10 people who started playing the consensus "Game of the Year," only one of them finished it.

What's particularly damning about this fact is that Raptr is for gamers. These aren't just sometime-players picking up a brilliant game and leaving it unfinished - these are people committed enough to gaming to join a community just for gamers.

Furthermore, the game played longest most recently is Call of Duty: Black Ops at 67 hours per player, but the article alleges that's due to multiplayer - not the relatively-short campaign. Interestingly, out of the raft of teenagers yours truly knows who bought Black Ops (or got their parents to buy it for them), not one of them said they got it for the single-player campaign; in fact, few said they bothered trying it at all. So is it just older gamers who don't have the time to finish games, or is there a bigger shift away from narrative-heavy single-player games?

Questions? Comments? Let us know in the comments section.

25 Comments

Gregry said:

First of all, I have to attest to being one of the 90% listed above. I liken it to several things mentioned above. Time is mostly a factor for me, between work and a husband, there is precious little time for me to play games. Thankfully I have converted him into a bit of a gamer too, so I can kill two birds with one stone. Crappy games never come into play with me, because I am diligent about searching out the ones I know I will like, and most of the time I am correct. What does come into play is the fact that there are TOO MANY good game out there now, and owning every system, I need them all. Take for example the games released this fall, all within the same month... Batman, Uncharted, Skyrim, Zelda, Assassins Creed, most of which promise over 40 hours or more... Now tell me how an I suppose to finish all of these, work 40 hours a week, and have a happy home life?

Briker Ed said:

Hmmm... I'm among the 90% as well. Too many games out there, they're easier to access, different playing systems (including smartphones). I usually have around 5 games at all times, that I'm playing, and cause I don't have as much time as I'd like I usually just rush through a game, so I could play the next one, which kills the fun and prevents me from actually enjoying a game. The offer is just too big.... but I'm learning to filter games better, limiting myself to fewer really good games that I will -really- play, and I still lack the time :/

Decompiled said:

This isn't new. Back in the 80's and early 90's most games weren't completed because they where designed to be very difficult and many players where unable to complete them.

There are some games that don't really need to be completed. From Dust for example is a fine game that doesn't require being completed for a gamer to get the From Dust experience. Oblivion's main quest was notoriously not worth bothering with, but every time I hear someone say they didn't bother with the assassins guild quest line, I cry a little inside.

orgnbldr said:

For me, the games I don't complete typically aren't because the final boss is too hard, or because I loose interest. My problem (as evidenced with GTA 4, LA Noire, etc) is that I'll make it into the game and close to the end and then work/business/other stuff makes life busy and I don't see the game for a few weeks or more. By the time I have free time again I may have forgotten that game and moved onto something new.

Love the site man.

Hal said:

Thanks for the feedback, guys! (And thanks for the compliment, orgnbldr.)

Gregry, I think you bring up a really good point: Owning all the great games for all the systems around these days is a full-time job.

Rosa said:

I am not in the 90%!

That said, it takes me months at least to finish games. And the only reason I do finish them is from intense self discipline. There's a rule I have: I can't start a new game until I finish the one I'm playing. Sometimes, that's frustrating for me, but I force myself to stick with it, and that's how I finish games.

I only manage play about eight a year, four on console and four on handheld, of course, but I don't mind so much. There aren't a lot of games coming out these days I really want to play -- don't like first person games due to motion sickness issues -- so I don't miss out as much as I could.

I've actually found my system pretty rewarding a worthwhile! Some games that are among my favourites are only that way because of immensely satisfying endings -- Folklore for PS3 is one of these. And the feeling of always completeing things is nice.

Of course I have one major advantage, and that's having perfect recall. I never forget a detail from a story or where I was going, even if I set down a game for a year. So this might be a lot harder for other people.

Limeade said:

I only purchase and play games that I know, without a doubt, that I will enjoy and finish and lives up to certain standards I have in my games (like positive portrayal of women and minorities). The games that I am on the fence about or think might be interesting to play for a few hours? I'll rent them.

I do not need every leading game on release day. IMO, there are far too many poorly made games and social justice failure games out there in the pool of recycles ideas anyway. The gaming medium can do so much, investigate so many other points of view and stories, but it tends to stick to much of the same.

There are many reasons as to why people do not finish games. If I do not finish a game within three months or a year, it doesn't mean that I do not like the game or plan on never finishing it, it just means that I will be getting around to it when time/interest permits. Length has LITTLE bearing at all on a GOOD game. If you enjoy it, and it is written well to keep the player's interest rather than fumbling poorly in the middle of the game, and if the more action-y games continue to keep their mechanics varied and interesting, then there should not be an issue over length.

The way I see it is that a good game is worth replaying, or a good game has great replayability value to it to keep the player's interest. Moreover, from a company commercial standpoint, what does it matter if people do or do not finish your game, so long as they are buying your product, eh?

Cylux said:

I find letting curiosity get the better of me and having a nosy at a game guide is one of the sure fire ways to kill off my desire to finish a game.
Also, steam offering me cheapo deals every now and then doesn't help, got quite a few games on my system now that "I'm getting around too"...

Ginger Snapped said:

For me, a big problem tends to be difficulty. I know, I know. That probably makes me a terrible gamer. Forgive me if, after a whopping thirty tries, I'll just let Xemnas toast Riku and Sora's ass.

I think a lot of people would agree though that, if a game is next to impossible to beat, they'll eventually pass. I think that tends to be the RPG crowd, and at that point I think it's because the story has taken a major backseat to the endgame battles. At some point, one doesn't care if Princess So-and-So's in danger, I'm queer anyway and my jump button sucks.

Topher said:

Speaking statistically, it's still possible that most gamers are actually far under 37 but that there are many outliers WAY above 37 to bring the average to where it is now. Just saying. Doesn't mean that half or more are above 37, though it seems that's more likely.

Chaz said:

Actually, I complete nearly every game I purchase. However, I don't move on to another game until I have completed my current one. Maybe that's odd, but that's how I play. With time constraints, this also means it takes a while to finish a game and thus I purchase very few.

If this includes getting all Achievements [aka the ones that aren't handed to you on a platter as you progress through the game], then yeah, I can believe this statistic. Otherwise... *shrugs*

screwdestiny said:

I also beat every game I buy, but I really only play single-player games. With the expense of games these days, it seems a waste to buy a game you won't finish. Also, unlike others, I'm actually pretty slow to get into a game...but once I get into it, I don't do anything else until I finish it. I also don't buy games right when they come out either...so if four 20-to-epic-number of hours games are coming out in one month, no big deal. I just got around to playing Dragon Age: Origins and that was what, 2 years ago? So yeah.

The only game in recent memory (and this was a year and a half ago, and I've played a bunch since then) I didn't beat was FF: Crystal Bearers because it was so MIND-NUMBINGLY AWFUL...and yet I still got to the final boss, lol. But it was just such a trainwreck I couldn't put it down, the only reason why I stopped was because I realized it was the final boss and was so disgusted that was all there was to the game I refused to beat it.

Though, honestly, it's easier for me because even as I get older, I live a single life with no dependents where the principle form of recreation is videogames.

Steve Ribisi said:

I was thinking about this very issue just yesterday. I am a 40 year old father of two and an avid gamer. I love games, but I have become more of a collector now that I really don't have the time to devote to playing through the games I have. The last games I actually completed were Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Since then I have purchased and played many games, but I have finished none of these. My free time is very scarce and this has also kept me from playing any of the subscription games. I can't justify paying a monthly fee for a game that I may not have the time to play. It's very sad. I haven't had an all night gaming session since the mid 1990s. Of course on the bright side, my kids get to see a lot of me, are well cared for, and don't resent the time I do spend playing. I'll just have to hold on to the games until the kids leave for college and then I may again have the time to play!

Zander said:

I always try to finish games I buy... well, except for L.A. Noire. I was close to beating it, but lost interest in it. Sometimes it is hard to find time to play anymore with work and responsibilities around the home.

Richard said:

I can count the number of games I've completed on one hand. Seriosuly, in my 30 years of living, I've probably only completed (by finishing the last mission) 4, maybe 5 games. It's not for a lack of interest. I really enjoy most of the games I've played. I got completely lost in Oblivion and probably played 4 different characters and barely did any of the same quests.

And it's not that I only finish games that I think are great. I just finished Dungeon Siege 3, which I thought was a mediocre game. But I had the time and the interest, so it got finished.

There's a million reasons I don't complete games. But mostly I just reach a point where I decide that I've finished my goals or that I'm just ready for a different game.

Nikademus said:

My Secret Shame:

I've played several Final Fantasy games over the years, but the only one I've ever completed was the first one.


*sigh*

Christian said:

I have only left behind games that I think are crap. Otherwise I complete all the games I play and I also have the policy of not starting a new game until I finish the one I'm playing. I might play two at the time if one is an RPG and the other a more action oriented one, otherwise it´s one at the time for me. I know many gamers and we all complete the games we play, sometimes it might take longer, but saying only 10% of people finish the games sounds a little weird. I understand you have things to do, I do too, I work of course, but it just takes me longer than what it would take me if I played all day long.

Grim said:

Why bother with a game you don't want to finish? Dislike a character, don't want to save the girl, seen a dealbreaker? Stop playing, there a plenty of other games out there! (Warning, variety of games may cause picky-ness and under-appreciation)

Gaijinguy said:

I have an embarrassingly large stock of unfinished games. Most of those are unfinished for the following reasons: 1) I got really stuck, and promised myself that I'd go back to it later... 2) They are open-world type games, and I totally neglect the main story/quest to go off to do other stuff. 3) A shiny new game caught my eye. 4) I got too freaked out by it to continue (I'm looking at you, 'Dead Space'). Yes, it's pretty wasteful of me.

CPFace said:

A lot of games aren't worth completing. Somewhere in the 90s, we started adding save slots to everything, so games could be longer. This led to customers (who, at the time, were largely children with a lot of disposable free time) to demand ever-longer games. This led to games with a lot of stupid and tedious busy work to keep a game from being "too short" -- Scour the fifty-acre 3D environment looking for all 100 secret collects, and start over from the beginning if you die!

There's this huge backlash against "casual gaming", but... why? Casual games cut right to the point and they don't cost nearly as much time. I just don't have time for anything else anymore.

raindog469 said:

When I was a kid, I played Pitfall at friends' houses. I'd never seen such a deep, long-lasting game. When I finally finished it, at least a year after the first time I played it, I felt like a hero. Now, Pitfall is a game you have to finish in 20 minutes or you start over from scratch. It probably only took that long for me to finish it because I didn't have an Atari myself. (I had an Odyssey2 when Pitfall came out.)

I'm 42 now, and it's a similar situation. Not that I don't have the consoles I want to play on, but we have only one TV, and I'm in a relationship with someone who's a bigger console gamer than me at this point (I got her hooked on Elebits and now she's like 200 hours into an obsessively completist Fallout 3 campaign on the Xbox).

But when the next Zelda appears later this year, you better believe I'll feel gypped if it's not at least as fleshed-out and long-lasting as Ocarina of Time, a game that is literally a hundredth the size, if not smaller. New iterations of things like Pac-Man (CE DX) and Robotron (Geometry Wars) are great, I'm enjoying Braid which is somewhere in the middle of casual and obsessive, and I'm not immune to Angry Birds either, but sometimes I want something that feels like I've stepped into another world in which I can stay pretty much as long as I like. Even if I don't ever get to the end of that world. (I'll also be disappointed if its equivalent of Hyrule Field doesn't seem as vast as Ocarina's Hyrule Field, as Twilight Princess didn't, but that's for another post...)

Rob said:

There are too many good games to finish them all. Whenthere is limit releases gives U something to play until the next hot game.

Deon said:

I finish -certain- types of games.
Things like RPGs, I am reluctant to finish and I end up starting over mid way because my OCD-behind would change something mid-game and decided I'd rather play it that way the entire game. It happens that way all the time.

But while I don't finish them, I keep them. Because I play through them a lot. Eventually I'll finish -- but I feel so empty inside when I do. :(

Talarian said:

I tend to the middle, where I've finished about half the games I've played (and frankly, that's a *lot* of games#. If a game doesn't grab me, or if it's a really grindy RPG, I'll probably put it down and not come back, but otherwise I prefer to see the endings of stories. Heck, some games I've completed multiple times! (See: Kingdom Hearts II).

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Talarian on Up To 90% Of Players Aren't Completing Games: CNN: I tend to the middle, where I've finished about half the games I've played (and frankly, that's a *lot* of...

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Rob on Up To 90% Of Players Aren't Completing Games: CNN: There are too many good games to finish them all. Whenthere is limit releases gives U something to play until...

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