Negative reviews for short playthrough length

As I’ve been downloading some COG/HGs on my phone, I’ve been a little surprised to find that one thing in particular seems to gain low ratings and negative reviews for the games, a short playthrough length.

Personally I find this really strange. It makes sense that the ratings wouldn’t be as high as they are in longer games, since they can’t go into as much depth when it comes to plot, characters and story arcs. Still, a lot of reviews tend to complain specifically about the games being too short.

The reason I find this weird is that the majority of games will say in the description the amount of words in the game. (Since I’ve been quite busy recently, I’ve been looking specifically for shorter games to play so that I don’t get too distracted by them.) The length of a game should be pretty easy to determine from the word count. If the game has over 300,000 words, you know to expect an epic that you’ll be reading for hours. If a game is only 30,000 words long, it’s safe to assume that you’re not going to get much more than an hour of game play.

It’s a shame since it seems to be a problem specifically for interactive fiction, because you cannot physically see when the story is going to end. After all, if somebody picked up a book in a library that was only 100 pages long, they wouldn’t reach page 99 expecting the book to be halfway through, then be surprised and disappointed to find that it finishes on the next page.

What do you guys think? If a game states in the blurb that the word count isn’t very high, is it fair to then criticize the game for being too short?


Depends on the cost. If people are used to getting a 100,000 word game for $4 and instead it’s 50,000, that could cause some negative feelings. Of course, one could easily argue that they knew the length at purchase. But since when did people let logic stand in the way of complaining?


Word count takes into consideration lines of code and alternate paths, so it can be a little tricky to trace parallels between number of words/time spent playing. I’m sure that there are some games out there that have a high word count but can be finished in little time.

That being said, in such cases the games would theoretically have lots of replayability, so I don’t think it would be fair to complain they are too short, especially if they have many endings.

Edit: Well, as mentioned above, some people don’t like to replay games. There’s that too.

What I really don’t understand are the negative reviews regarding “pay walls”. Are those really not being properly announced beforehand? I think I saw examples of both cases: Games that were actually demos and didn’t make it clear they were so in their description and games that explained just the first chapter/prologue/part of it was free, but people complained nonetheless.

I guess all the negative reviews mentioned are related to dealing with the expectations of the public, but there might be ways to work around some of that. I know there are plenty of bad reviews that are unfounded, and in no way I’m trying to defend some of the people who think they’re entitled to MUH FREE GAMES, but antagonizing reviewers won’t help anyone. I really think a portion of the bad reviews influx might be avoidable with proper advertising.


A lot of our games have a lot of replayability which is why the word count can look higher than you’ll see in a single playthrough and some people don’t understand that. Others don’t like to replay games once finished.


I personally would never vote on quantity if quality is a consideration.


Some authors can say very little but use a lot of words to do so or they meander while telling their story while others manage to say a lot with few words. This is very much a matter of preference and personal style. But this alone means that word count is not an objective measurement of content.

I’d also like to suggest that the number and impact of choices. Having a lot of seemingly meaningful choices will probably lend the illusion of more content even if the word count is low. Or at least that’s what I’d assume.

Which is to say that word count is nothing I consider an exact or objective measure and I’m not sure anyone else does. But to reiterate my initial statement I’d personally never judge quantity over quality. And if the game manages to tell its story without gaping holes then it’s long enough. Playing time in relation to price is a consideration of course but again I’d think most people would derive more satisfaction from quality than quantity.


I would wager that most people only play through a game once, maybe twice, and want to see the majority of content on one playthrough. So, if they get a 100,000 word game, but it’s so branching that you only ever get, say, 20-30,000, I can see why people would feel cheated.


I’ve often thought that CoG could deal with a lot of negative reviews simply by changing the “Play now for free” text to “Play free demo now”. It’s true that the description does always say that “You can play the first X chapters of the game for free. Purchase the rest of the game below.” but people never seem to read that, and ratings suffer because of it.


Just “play demo now” would work too. Or keep it factual and have it say “play chapters 1-3 now”.


Actually, encountering about 30-35% of total text in a given playthrough is considered the “sweet spot” between playthrough length and replayability.

But yes some readers see the 100,000 count in the description and automatically think “yay! its like a full length novel!”


I, personally, have never given a CoG/Hosted game a bad review, or a low rating.

That said, there have been a few. …if I’m honest maybe more than a few… that felt rushed at the end. It’s not exactly the same thing as being too short, but they felt like they needed a couple more hours to give a complete and satisfying experience.


I just tend to ignore the 1 * ratings at all when looking at the distribution of ratings if there is not specified why that person rated it so low.

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Sometimes I wonder if giving an “estimated hours to play” statistic would make more sense then word count - both total and per play-through.

I see this more and more in the episode games like Life is Strange and the TellTale series descriptions and blurbs … just something worth considering.


Meh, problem with that is reading time varies a lot from person to person, while a traditional gaming format doesn’t have nearly as much variance.


Adding to that, I don’t think most people out there know how much 30 000 or 100 000 words actually is.


I am inclined to agree. We are trained to think of story length in pages, not words.


I don’t know, have mixed feelings. The latest games I’ve played, I felt that replaying it again would be boring. In my opinion, the best games in terms of replay value would be the Infinity Series, SLAMMED! And The Heroes Rise trilogy. Don’t know, that could only be me.

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I don’t let the bad reviews shoo me off as after reading 3games and The Elemental : Awakening ( did I got the name right :sweat_smile: ( I was always bad with names )) ( both had ratings in 3’s ) and realising that they were good I stopped reading reviews.


That choice in the end was probably the hardest in any game. ( save your friend from career ruin or chase your dream )

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Oh yes, I forgot about those. Definitely a much worse complaint. It really annoys me when I see people leaving 1 star reviews on a game and their reasoning behind it is, “This game should be free!” It seems to be really common with mobile games. People are happy to spend $30 or more on a game for the PC, Xbox or PS consoles, but if it’s on a mobile, it should be free! Not sure what the reasoning is behind this, but oh well. :yum:

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That is true. A game can be short and still be really well paced. Sethaniel’s “Snow” on CYS is a really good example.