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Developers Aren't Thrilled With PC Game Pass' Latest Feature

Sometimes, the desires of gamers and the needs of game developers are at odds. Players and developers had very different reactions to Microsoft's announcement of a partnership with HowLongToBeat for the PC Game Pass, which now displays how long games take to beat. On one hand, players tend to like to know more details about before getting into a new game. On the other hand, however, some developers see this as a shady move from Xbox, and have expressed a fear that this integration could make players perceive the value of a game from its length, possibly affecting short games.

In a September 14, 2022 blog post, Director of Product Management Jason Beaumont detailed the new HowLongToBeat PC Game Pass integration, as well as other updates that will roll out at the same time. The new feature will only be available on the PC version of Xbox Game Pass and comes with four different categories: Main Story, Main Story and Side Quests, 100% Completion, and an estimation that takes all times into account. 

The integration will let player upload their own times to the HowLongToBeat Xbox servers directly from the app, and will display times for each of these four categories at the top of every game's Details tab. The main concern from game developers is its effect on some of the shorter games on Game Pass, with some worrying that players may see a low HowLongToBeat time and decide it's not worth the effort of installing.

Developers worry HowLongToBeat on PC Game Pass will devalue short games

DoubleFine game designer Ben Johnson said on Twitter that though devs don't want to hide the length of their game from players, "a small number near the Buy button probably costs more sales than a large number." He went on to say that some developers may artificially inflate the length of their games by adding unnecessary content. Bioware Art Supervisor Ryan DowlingSoka said, "I think the 'short game isn't worth money' is already a big thing, and this will grow it. I'd prefer they simplify it slightly ... to intentionally remove the direct negative connotation."

Other developers offered more positive views on the integration, however. "Gloomwood" developer Nate Berens said that while they can't tell whether mentioning a game's length affects sales, "it does seem to have curbed the number of people who refunded." Menawhile, developer Kevin Stewart responded to a post on the integration by Vice reporter Patrick Klepek, saying that although too many players tend to associate the length of a game with its value, "since the tool exists ... integration just seems more honest." 

A shared sentiment among many who responded to Klepek's post was that its easy to find out how long the runtimes are for other media, like novels and films, and that games ought to be no different. HowLongToBeat's integration with PC Game Pass is certainly a bit divisive, and only time will tell if it's a feature both consumers and developers can embrace.