In a recent interview with OXM, Hitman Absolution director Tore Blystad admitted to a depressing little statistic: "20 percent of the players will see the last level of the game. It's horrible to know. It makes the people working on it really really sad."
And this isn't a statistic limited to the Hitman game. Blystad went on to say, "It's not just for this game, it's for any game." So next time you finish a game and want to whine about how little work you feel went into the ending, consider this fact: You're in the minority here. Four out of five players won't even get that far. That certainly can't make a developer feel good about himself or his work.
So why is this? Is it because there are just so many games out there?
Chuck Klosterman opens his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (a fascinating analysis of pop culture that shouldn't be missed by pop cultists) with a few paragraphs, in which he claims "That's what accelerated culture does; it doesn't speed things up as much as it jams everything into the same wall of sound." Now, he probably went on to explain how this statement profoundly impacts our lives each and every day, but I wouldn't know. I'm in the vast majority of readers who never actually finished the book.
But I think the point is an interesting one to consider anyway. Has "accelerated culture" really mashed things together into a collage of garbled and conflicting messages? Is it true that there are so many video games out there nowadays that we simply can't finish the games we start? Probably. Especially for a person like me who makes a living writing about games and is therefore obligated to know about as many of those games as possible.
I admit that I don't always finish games either. In fact, longtime CCC readers might remember that I decided to play through Square's masterpiece Chrono Trigger a year ago. I thought I was committed for the long haul, but I simply petered out by the end. And it's not that I didn't absolutely adore the game. I just got distracted by the "wall of sound" composed of last fall's insane amount of incredible game releases. In fact, I'm still playing Skyrim, and I haven't finished the main quest line in that one yet either.
Thinking about it from a developer's perspective, though, makes me feel like a jerk. I mean, how many man hours and thousands of dollars went into making endings for these games? Probably a lot. And how many of the people making these were tempted to say, "Well, no one's going to see this anyway; I'm just going to cut out of here early today?" I know I would be.
So is there anything developers can do about this? Well, from a certain perspective, no. I mean, no one's going to convince devs to make lessgames, right? But from a different perspective, absolutely. You can craft an experience that's as solid and enjoyable in the middle as it is in the beginning.