There’s a sizeable chunk of people who never finish the game or main story, even more accessible, narrative-driven adventures like Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human.
In an onstage interview at Gamelab 2019, as transcribed by Gamesindustry, Quantic Dream’s David Cage spoke alongside the maker of A Way Out, Josef Fares, about the difficulty of getting players to finish their single-player games.
A particular worry for games like A Way Out and Detroit: Become Human is that players will simply watch the game unfold on Twitch or YouTube, and never seek to play it themselves. It’s a concern that the maker of That Dragon, Cancer raised, where the game’s views on YouTube outstripped the amount of sales in the order of millions. “For a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let’s Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced,” That Dragon, Cancer developer Ryan Green said at the time.
That’s been less of an issue for Detroit and A Way Out, with Cage telling the audience that Detroit‘s branching narratives meant that all of the game’s content couldn’t be easily shown in a Let’s Play. “In the past, YouTubers were very problematic for us, because players were watching those videos thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve got the story, I don’t need to play the game, I know what it’s about,'” Cage said.
“With Detroit, the opposite happened. They were showing one walkthrough, but they couldn’t show all of the things that happened in all of the branches. Players watching thought, ‘I wish he’d done this’… Suddenly they became our allies, and they helped us to promote the game.”
But there’s still another major problem: too many players aren’t finishing the game at all, at least for the developers’ liking.
For Heavy Rain, only 78 percent of players finished the game, Cage told the audience. That figure was approximately the same for Detroit: Become Human, meaning at least one-fifth of players never saw any of the game’s endings, let alone the multiple branching paths.
For A Way Out, the completion rates were more stark. Fares said only half of the playerbase finished the co-op prison adventure, a figure that he was openly unhappy about.
“People say to me, ‘Oh man, A Way Out, 50% of people finished your game.’ I’m supposed to be happy about this? Are you fucking crazy? … It’s like having a movie in a cinema and half the people walk out,” he said.
Given that A Way Out is a pure co-op experience — the game can’t be enjoyed solo — the 50 percent completion rate isn’t all bad. Average playthroughs of the game take just under 6 hours, while Heavy Rain and Detroit clock in at 10 hours and just over 11, respectively.
The one advantage in Detroit‘s favour was the flowchart, which showcased not just the branching paths not taken, but also functioned as a shortcut so players could immediately access those parts of the story. The feature’s inclusion lead to more people playing Detroit a second or third time, moreso than what happened with Heavy Rain. “People want to know what’s going to happen next, and a story can achieve this for you,” Cage said.