Xbox PC now shows how long it takes to beat games, which is tricky

A Skynrim photo of a village, with HowLongToBeat data at the bottom.

Screenshot: Bethesda/Kotaku

The ways people judge their video games are many and varied, with few agreeing on hard and fast rules for what really makes playtime valuable. a match. And now, “how long to beat” is a metric that Microsoft just added to its PC version of the Xbox app.

In the latest update on Microsoft’s Xbox Wire blog, the company announced that it had just added “HowLongToBeat” to its Xbox PC app, promoting it as a basis on which people should make decisions. They explain that this is “a unique feature that makes it even easier to choose your next PC game.”

Leaving aside that it is obviously not unique in any way (— inevitably property of IGN-owners Ziff Davis – who Microsoft has partnered with on this, has been around for over a decade, and Steam has such stats), it’s fair to say that this metric could be completely misused by people who confuse length with quality.

To Microsoft’s credit, they don’t address the worst part of such thinking, where value = game time / price. The post explains that they see it as a way to decide “if you’re in the mood for something you can smash in a day or two, or maybe looking for your next long-term game.” And while I’d cut a limb if I could just convince this industry to stop using words like “Beat” and “Crush” in place of “Play,” at least they suggest there’s also value in brevity.

Read more: How to calculate the true value of a game from its price and duration

It would be dishonest to suggest that the response to this ad was not positive. Responses and replies on Twitter are generally celebratory, with many asking for the same to be brought to the Xbox console. A few are raising concerns, especially regarding those making shorter games.

“Not a big fan, tbh,” said BioWare art supervisor Ryan Downling Soka in response to a tweet from Waypoints Patrick Clepek. “I think ‘the short game isn’t worth the money’ is already a big thing, and that will make it grow.”

However, Darkwood developer Nate Berens said he thinks mentioning that a game is less than two hours in its description helped avoid refunds.

Kimmo Lahtinen, developer of Repeat day of the day and Barbaric told me they saw it as a positive. “Players are generally happier with the more realistic expectations they have.”

The problem with such statistics, however, is that they can too easily stray from the truth. As a game reviewer I know well how even other game reviewers will outright lie about how long it took them to complete a game. If you write saying that a difficult game took you 12 hours , you can be bombarded with vitriol by people who have completed it in 9, so people shave a few hours to be safe. The players do the same, not wanting to look like they’ve struggled. So, honestly, who in the audience is sitting there with a stopwatch while they play? Does it count if you stop for a coffee? What if the doorbell rings? Not to mention the foolishness of relying on a console or Steam’s clock, given that they usually keep running when a game is paused.

I just checked, and you can dial any number you want for HowLongToBeat – I just told him I’m done Wander in an hour, but it took 1,223 hours to reach 100%, and that definitely added to the overall game stats. (I removed that right away, obviously.) Update: HLTBthe creator of got in touch to say that the times are queued for approval, and outliers like this would be examined by them personally. My apologies for my mistake.

I no longer have explanation for how Minecraft Dungeons is currently listed as a five hour duration. Um no.

The new Xbox PC app store screen, showing HowLongToBeat data.

Screenshot: Microsoft

At best, a HowLongToBeat stat gives you a very general idea of ​​the type of game you’re dealing with. Is it two hours or forty? And, in general, it’s pretty good for that. Right now its front page tells you that Ring of Elden will probably take you 52 hours to complete its main story, while Spider ManThe story offers about 17 hours. But there are so many games where such measures just don’t work.

Take, for example, Potholing. A game in which most people cannot leave the second world is listed as “7 p.m.” for its main story. An endless game like The Sims 4 sort of has a figure of “67 hours”. Hilariously, the site even reports hours for MMOs, like Online Standbyis wonderfully specific “2,896 hours”. (Since you wonder, World of Warcraft lasts 2364 hours.)

Then there’s the way it inevitably Is prejudice against shorter games. If someone sees something only lasts a few hours, are they less likely to buy it? Are all-time classics like fire watch, tentacle dayWhere ABZU cheaper because they are less than six hours? Aren’t they, or their modern equivalents, much more likely to be overlooked due to their low single-digit “beat” time, when alongside a similarly priced roguelite? Some will no doubt be delighted to know that a short game can fit into their daily lives, but there’s a reason the industry is collapsing under the weight of live service games, which never end. . People love the idea of ​​”more” even though they may never reach that 200th hour of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

A Twitter user, @MOOMANiBE, observes another peculiarity of this update. In the Xbox Wire message you will find a direct link to a new section of HowLongToBeat specifically gather information about Game Pass games. It’s a very useful resource, for that matter, but as developer Ivy Road Games points out, it also includes a front-page section called “Poorly Received”, showcasing games like Anacrusis at 43%, and Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition the same. Except click on the latter and you find out that these numbers are based on a grand total of of them review, one giving it 1/10, another 7/10. For Anacrusisby Chet Faliszek left for dead tracking is three reviews at 3, 4 and 6 out of 10. Surely Microsoft doesn’t want it to stay that way?

Whatever your opinion, the news is unquestionably going well online so far. It will be fascinating to see what the developers think of it over the next few weeks, whether it’s a boon or a burden.

Updated: 9/15/22, 12:39 a.m. ET: Updated text to acknowledge and correct an incorrect statement.