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How many people finish a game

By on November 28, 2011
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I wrote a post about why episodic gaming doesn’t work, and got many comments back about how my logic (that you lose a large percentage of your audience between episodes) is flawed.

I accept that my illustration of losing 50% of your audience between episodes is contentious. My point, however, is that few people finish story-driven games, and when the future of your studio relies on people finishing the first game and then a growth in demand (or at least staying flat) for your next episode.

I saw this fascinating chart on game completion rates on Gamasutra showing how many people finished popular Xbox games. I was surprised by how high the completion rates were, but they are still challenging for an episodic developer.

Gamasutra game completion rates


If you’re interested, you should check out the full article on Gamasutra.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • Andrew Eades

    I’m repeating myself here because I think the flaw in the argument is that you can build an audience on TV so your viewing figures go up from episode to episode. That doesn’t happen because it’s episodic, it’s because people get interested but can’t just start at episode 1. Luckily, our friends fill us in on the details. People who get interested in a book, though, start at chapter 1 for the most part. People that get interested in an episodic game will start at episode 1 because it’s easy too. And a requirement in the case of Blue Toad Murder Files. You will always sell more episode 1s as a result of releasing episode X so it is not possible to “build” in the same way. But you can look at it from the other end and consider the final episode as building your episode 1 audience and so on.

  • James Coote

    I was one of those contesting the previous blog.

    How many people completed the first 3 levels in each of these games? How many complete the next 3 levels? That is how you measure ratings for episode 1 and 2 respectively.

    The above is just the number of people who watched the entire season

  • On Steam you can see the global stats for achievements, which are a way to break down the episodes of non-episodic games. That’s more comparable with your argument (and supports it).

  • FreakyZoid

    Unfortunately that chart just tells you what %age of players finished the game, and gives no indication of what the rate of attrition was, or why players stopped playing.

    Especially given the disparities in story campaign length between GTA IV and Gears of War, for example.

    You also seem to be ignoring the key “upside” of episodic content (when it’s done in the original TV-influenced meaning, rather than the Valve interpretation), in that it should get progressively cheaper to make due to repeated resource use and the batching of expensive production resources.

    If your second episode cost 50% to make as the first one did, but only has 50% of the audience, you are still on a level.

  • Would be interesting to know how this compares to other media.

    I’d imagine film ‘completion’ rates are quite high (at least when people go to watch them in the cinema), but books would probably be a lot lower.