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Hellblade II Dev Says People Want Shorter Games, And They’re Right

Image: Ninja Theory
Image: Ninja Theory

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is set to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps as a digital-only, shorter experience. Ninja Theory’s follow-up to the 2017 psychological horror action game will run about eight hours and cost only $50 compared to the $70 most AAA games cost on the Xbox Series X/S. If you prefer longer experiences, this might be too much money for too little game. For some, it’s as black-and-white as whether or not a game clears the “dollar per hour” metric, the idea that you should be able to get as many hours out of a game as the dollars you pay for it. However, Ninja Theory says it believes that fans have become more open to shorter games.

In an interview with IGN, Ninja Theory studio head Dom Matthews said Hellblade 2’s shorter runtime was an intentional choice, as a brisker game was in line with the story the developer wanted to tell, and it came naturally as part of developing around protagonist Senua’s arc in the sequel.

“So it’s not really a case of setting out to make shorter experiences,” Matthews told IGN. “I think it is... There is a story that we want to tell here with a beginning, middle and end and what is the right shape and size of experience to tell that story? So that’s kind of where we start.”

The original Hellblade’s success is a testament to this, as it also clocks in at around seven to eight hours. Matthews told IGN the studio has established an audience for shorter games. He also thinks digital storefronts and alternative pricing to the typically more expensive boxed copies have “opened the industry up to games of all shapes and sizes.”

“I think there’s a lot of pressure on people’s time these days and I think our fans, from what we hear from them, they enjoy a shorter game where our intention is that every step of that journey is meaningful,” Matthews said. “There’s an audience of people that want games that are focused.”

Personally, I love a game I can beat in a sitting or two. I’ve been preaching that everyone should play GoodbyeWorld Games’ eye-tracking adventure game Before Your Eyes, emphasizing that it’s only 90 minutes long, and that metric alone has sold some people on the game. The modern video game’s propensity for glut is what keeps me from getting invested in a lot of open-world games. Some days, it feels like developers confuse time spent doing things as time inherently well-spent, and it gives me a bit of hope to see studios like Ninja Theory advocating for games lasting just as long as they need to.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is coming to PC and Xbox Series X/S on May 21 and will be available to Game Pass subscribers on day one.

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