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Why are completion percentages for single player campaigns so low?

For the longest time, I've been curious about this; didn't see a recent thread so here you go.

Doing a quick scan of Achievements in Steam, by taking a look at the completion percentages of some games, I see:

Tomb Raider (2013): 42.4%
BioShock Infinite: 38.2%
Resident Evil 2: 29.8% (for the "true" ending; Leon A-only completion rate is 50.5%)
Yakuza 0: 24.9%
Witcher 3: 24.6%
Red Dead Redemption 2: 23.9%

This was a quick and dirty cross-selection of popular, well-regarded games that I have in my Steam library. It actually gets worse from there, with some games having a very low completion percentage (like Resident Evil HD with a 22.5% completion rate with Jill, who's actually the easier of the 2 characters to use). I would say that, for games I own on Steam, the average completion is 25% -- so that means that 3 out of every 4 people that buy a popular game on Steam don't complete the single player campaign. That (to me) is pretty wild.

Question: Why does it seem like a small percentage of plays beat games?

Some points, for discussion:
  1. It may be that Steam may not be representative of the broader gamer completion percentage. It may very well be that completion percentages on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo are much higher. (My speculation: I doubt it)
  2. It may be that my selection of games have too many open world games; people may get open world fatigue and not care to finish the game. I don't own many First Person shooters, but it may be the case that for example those have higher completion percentages?
  3. Any talk of games like Resident Evil should be banned in this thread because survival horror in general potentially has low completion rates; this can extend to other genres.
  4. Do some gamers just chase the latest, shiniest games, so that even when they're in the middle of playing one, they drop it and get the latest shiniest game?
  5. Do a big percentage of players potentially buy games just for the multiplayer portion? (From my selection above, that doesn't apply to over half the games. Also, if you look at Achievement statistics, it seems that Achievements for actions earlier in the game are very high -- usually in the 70s/80s percentage -- so that would seem to indicate that players at least start the single player campaign).

Discuss!
 
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01011001

Member
Possible reasons:

people not liking the game

game being too long

game being too hard for those filthy casuals

or, in the case of RE2 could be that it's too scary for many


remember that this counts EVERYONE who ever launched the game. so this counts people having a game borrowed from a friend, on steam this can be games people install due to family sharing with friends and just trying out shit and on Xbox GamePass inflates player numbers because you can try hundreds of games for free and see which one you actually wanna play for longer
 
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Arthimura

Member
I believe it's because of Steam sales. Sometimes people get the games for dirty cheap, fire the game once and never play again.

On PlayStation the completion percentages are much higher, seeing the official percentages on the trophies.

On websites like PSN Profiles it's even higher, but that's because it's a site focused on people who cares about completion and trophies.
 
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Gamerguy84

Member
I think a lot of people buy big production games just to take part in the conversation.

I also think they do want to like them.

I research every game I buy and I finish them. I start and stop a lot of games on PSNOW though.
 

Hugare

Member
More than 30% is pretty high for a singleplayer game

Bioshock Infinite for having some multiverse stuff that not everyone may get invested

Resident Evil 2 for being scary (and puzzles, people are dumb)

Yakuza 0, Witcher 3 and RDR 2 are HUGE games with pacing issues
 
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Possible reasons:

people not liking the game

game being too long

game being too hard for those filthy casuals

or, in the case of RE2 could be that it's too scary for many
These are all very good points.

remember that this counts EVERYONE who ever launched the game. so this counts people having a game borrowed from a friend, on steam this can be games people install due to family sharing with friends and just trying out shit
Another great point. But does this account for that many people though? Wonder what percentage of people that launch a popular game on Steam fall into this category.

I believe it's because of Steam sales. Some times people get the games for dirty cheap, fire the game once and never play again.

On PlayStation the completion percentages are much higher, seeing the official percentages on the trophies.

On websites like PSN Profiles it's even higher, but that's because it's a site focused on people who cares about completion and trophies.
I had some doubts about PlayStation and Xbox completion percentages being disproportionately higher than on Steam. But then you brought up Steam sales which is a great point.

Single player games succeed on whether you buy them, not on whether you play them.

The incentives don't lead to good game design.
Pretty good point. I was going to use an "Empathy" emoji on your post because you're right, and weaker design means we all get worse games. Le sadness.
 
Not everyone blessed with free time.
This is an interesting answer. So... why buy video games in the first place, if you have no intention on completing them (or at least trying to)?

It's not like it's a secret that video games require some amount of time investment.

Of course, people can spend their money however they want. But if I buy something, I sure intend to use it or (in the case of a consumable) consume it.
 

rodrigolfp

Member
Possible reasons:

people not liking the game

game being too long

game being too hard for those filthy casuals

or, in the case of RE2 could be that it's too scary for many


remember that this counts EVERYONE who ever launched the game. so this counts people having a game borrowed from a friend, on steam this can be games people install due to family sharing with friends and just trying out shit and on Xbox GamePass inflates player numbers because you can try hundreds of games for free and see which one you actually wanna play for longer
Plus:

too many games on the library + emulation to finish

disabled steam achievements
 
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This is an interesting answer. So... why buy video games in the first place, if you have no intention on completing them (or at least trying to)?

It's not like it's a secret that video games require some amount of time investment.

Of course, people can spend their money however they want. But if I buy something, I sure intend to use it or (in the case of a consumable) consume it.
They do exist and I really hate being inside their shoes but at least you can't ignore them.
 
As an avid trophy hunter on PS, this is often the case as well. Popular games will only be beaten to campaign completion by 25 to 33% of players in most cases, and then often only on Easy. Normal is usually 10 to 15% and harder difficulties under 5%. Again, this counts anyone who has unlocked even a single trophy.

Most AAA games with campaigns reward a trophy/achievement for completing the first tutorial mission. Most games have story based trophies/achievements which developers and publishers use to measure how far the average gamer completes the game. Many gamers give up on games for many reasons. Difficulty, game lost its appeal, something more important to them came out, was only a rental, traded it in, etc.

Many gamers don't care about finishing games they just want to mess around in a world. There isn't a huge stigma behind not finishing a game, and if they don't care about trophies and achievements and they have no other incentive to continue, like enjoyment and fun, they move on.

Edit: As a rule of thumb, if you really enjoy a game, try to get every trophy/achievement it offers. It doesn't matter if you don't really care about them--they measure gamer engagement and publishers pay attention to the data just as they do sales and player count (in MP).

Edit 2: PS first party games and/or console exclusives have a significantly higher average than the ones I posted, but I was using third party game averages as the OP was referring to Steam (PC) playerbase.
 
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Makes it impressive that TLOU2, Ghost of Tsushima and Spider-mans were so high

  • Spider-Man Miles Morales - 66%
  • The Last of Us Part II – 60.7%
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man – 50.8%
  • Ghost of Tsushima – 50.2%
  • God of War – 50.2%
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – 50.3%
  • Detroit: Become Human – 48.6%
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake – 39.5%
  • Days Gone – 34.7%
  • Horizon Zero Dawn – 34.1%
  • Death Stranding – 28.6%
  • Ratchet & Clank (2016) – 27%
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure – 15.1%
 
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On PlayStation the completion percentages are much higher, seeing the official percentages on the trophies.

You'll see the same with trophies for games on PlayStation. It's not a Steam exclusive behavior.

 
Makes it impressive that TLOU2, Ghost of Tsushima and Spider-mans were so high

  • The Last of Us Part II – 60.7%
  • Spider-Man Miles Morales - 66%
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man – 50.8%
  • Ghost of Tsushima – 50.2%
  • God of War – 50.2%
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – 50.3%
  • Detroit: Become Human – 48.6%
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake – 39.5%
  • Days Gone – 34.7%
  • Horizon Zero Dawn – 34.1%
  • Death Stranding – 28.6%
  • Ratchet & Clank (2016) – 27%
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure – 15.1%
Holy shit, 60%...!? That's (relatively) impressive. And isn't The Last of Us Part II a 20-hour game or so?

Actually, you got me thinking about something. All of those games you listed are first party, so wonder if Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo first party games just have a much higher completion percentage than 3rd party games. Would be interesting to see although I don't have time to compile the data at the moment.
 
Holy shit, 60%...!? That's (relatively) impressive. And isn't The Last of Us Part II a 20-hour game or so?

Actually, you got me thinking about something. All of those games you listed are first party, so wonder if Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo first party games just have a much higher completion percentage than 3rd party games. Would be interesting to see although I don't have time to compile the data at the moment.

1st party games sell to people who specifically buy the console for them so it makes sense they are more invested then people who buy games like assassins creed or GTA

…and yeah, I think TLOU2 took me about 23 hours
 
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1st party games sell to people who specifically buy the console for them so it makes sense they are more invested then people who buy games like assassins creed or GTA

…and yeah, I think TLOU2 took me about 23 hours
Yup, definitely makes sense. I mentioned the data part because I just like looking at data (and getting patterns from it).

Since the first party question is easily answerable, I guess the next question is to compare the same third party games across platforms (PC/PS/Xbox/Switch/etc).
 
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kyliethicc

Member
Holy shit, 60%...!? That's (relatively) impressive. And isn't The Last of Us Part II a 20-hour game or so?

Actually, you got me thinking about something. All of those games you listed are first party, so wonder if Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo first party games just have a much higher completion percentage than 3rd party games. Would be interesting to see although I don't have time to compile the data at the moment.
Yeah The Last of Us Part II is a 25-30 hour long game and yeah the story trophy is currently at 58.7%.

Its one of the highest completion rates I’ve ever seen.
 
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ArtHands

Thinks buying more servers can fix a bad patch
Because an average Steam player has easily several hundreds of games in the backlog (i just surpassed 1000 games on Steam recently). There are countless AAA titles that I have acquired in Humble Bundle and Steam sales that I haven't touch yet.
 
Because an average Steam player has easily several hundreds of games in the backlog (i just surpassed 1000 games on Steam recently). There are countless AAA titles that I have acquired in Humble Bundle and Steam sales that I haven't touch yet.
Fair point. But on the bolded: If you haven't touched them, then you don't count towards the completion statistics, right? I speculate that at least on Steam there are a lot of people in your situation.
 

kyliethicc

Member
So, turns out that a game with a lot of online hate thrown at it, actually has one of the highest completion percentages of any AAA game of its kind.

Very impressive indeed.
Lot of people wanna see how it ends once they start it, I guess.

Miles Morales has the highest completion rate on PS4 that I can find - 65%.

That seems more to do with how quickly the main story can be finished. It’s like 6-8 hours.
 
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Warablo

Member
I attribute the high TLOU II completion rate to the fact it ends in a cliff hanger mid way through the game.
 
Lot of people wanna see how it ends once they start it, I guess.

Miles Morales has the highest completion rate on PS4 that I can find - 65%.

That seems more to do with how quickly the main story can be finished. It’s like 6-8 hours.
Awesome data point. Which again makes TLoU-2 completion % a very impressive number.

Only 5% completion difference between an almost 25-hour game and an 8-hour game. Whoa.
 
I find I complete way more games on consoles than Steam. I have too many games on Steam and get distracted by other games. Consoles I’m more dialed into one particular game at a time. I think my completion average on consoles was around 65-70% where as Steam it’s more likely 20%. But that’s me…
 

Guilty_AI

Member
Another big reason i didn't see people mentioning is simply because these numbers aren't static.

Whenever someone finishes the game there'll be more people picking them up, its not like only 3 out 10 people completes the game, its just that even now there are new people picking up these games or still playing through them. And based on personal experience i know some of these games can take reeeeeeally long to finish for some people.
 
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Whenever someone finishes the game there'll be more people picking them up, its not like only 3 out 10 people completes the game, its just that even now there are new people picking up these games or still playing through them. And based on personal experience i know some of these games can take reeeeeeally long to finish for some people.
GTA 5 must have a less than 1 percent completion rate.
 

Guilty_AI

Member
GTA 5 must have a less than 1 percent completion rate.
Its not a matter of quantity. More people playing = more people finishing the game too.

These number will remain constant if the playerbase is relatively stable. Witcher 3 for example still gets some good 20k people daily, which isn't much different from what it'd get 5 years ago.
 

EDMIX

Member
I believe its because most gamers generally play a game for certain gameplay elements and get bored quickly and move on to something else. Consider even short games also have low completion rates.

So most gamers don't complete games, most do not play a second or 3rd time, most do not buy a game after 6 to 12 months after release etc.

Its why I can't stress enough about that whole BC issue, most don't complete games, most don't go back and play a game from the year prior, let alone SEVERAL generations prior, the majority is into what is new, what is happening right now.

So I'd say we make up a lot of the hardcore, but the hardcore DO NOT make up the majority, its why I say to take what is stated on Gaf with a grain of salt in terms of the majority and not to believe what we all talk about is the norm for most...the norm for most is to not be talking deeply on a gaming forum about such titles to this degree. So many of us might have a list of games we completed, but the fact that we are on Gaf shows we make up that small percentage completing them games in the first place lol
 
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I find I complete way more games on consoles than Steam. I have too many games on Steam and get distracted by other games. Consoles I’m more dialed into one particular game at a time. I think my completion average on consoles was around 65-70% where as Steam it’s more likely 20%. But that’s me…
Yet your use case seems completely reasonable, and may explain some of the discrepancies between PC and consoles.
 

levyjl1988

Member
I remember quitting playing Halo Infinite, Gears 5, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect Andromeda campaigns after the second level.
I play the game normally blind, then I realize that there is a point of no return making it impossible to backtrack and get collectibles. Which then forces me to play with an open guide.
This would disrupt my natural play of the game. Because of this I stopped playing as I got pissed off with the bad game design.
I don't want to play a campaign only to realize that I missed a collectible and making that future 60 hours a waste. Fuck that shit. I ain't going to do a second playthorugh, feels like a fucking chore with checklists.
 

Rest

Banned
Not everyone cares about "beating" the game. Games are for fun. People play for the experience, and once they've gotten what they can out of a game they move on.
 
I remember quitting playing Halo Infinite, Gears 5, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect Andromeda campaigns after the second level.
I play the game normally blind, then I realize that there is a point of no return making it impossible to backtrack and get collectibles. Which then forces me to play with an open guide.
This would disrupt my natural play of the game. Because of this I stopped playing as I got pissed off with the bad game design.
I don't want to play a campaign only to realize that I missed a collectible and making that future 60 hours a waste. Fuck that shit. I ain't going to do a second playthorugh, feels like a fucking chore with checklists.
So you're a completionist, then?

Most games these days overstay their welcome.
Has been brought up several times already, and yeah, this seems like one of the big reasons.

Not everyone cares about "beating" the game. Games are for fun. People play for the experience, and once they've gotten what they can out of a game they move on.
To me it seems that not beating the game means people are not having fun. All of the examples i gave are single player campaigns with a defined "end goal." They're not, say, fighting games or racing games that have repetitive gameplay with no discretely defined "end goal."

Imagine if I applied this rationale to any other random activity in life:

"I don't care about 'finishing' the hike. Hikes are for fun. I only hike half of the trail and turn right around and go to the next one."
"I don't care about 'finishing' my meal at a restaurant. Food is for fun. I only eat about half of my meal and throw the rest out."
"I don't care about 'finishing' a movie at the cinema. Movies are for fun. I only watch half the movie then just walk out of the cinema."

Etc...
 

ArtHands

Thinks buying more servers can fix a bad patch
Fair point. But on the bolded: If you haven't touched them, then you don't count towards the completion statistics, right? I speculate that at least on Steam there are a lot of people in your situation.
I would be counted against the completion statistics.

This is an interesting answer. So... why buy video games in the first place, if you have no intention on completing them (or at least trying to)?

It's not like it's a secret that video games require some amount of time investment.

Of course, people can spend their money however they want. But if I buy something, I sure intend to use it or (in the case of a consumable) consume it.
Dirt cheap bundle sales are everywhere on PC, sometimes even cheaper than the individual cost of a single game. Back 4 Blood cost $60 new. I paid $40 for the Humble 'Stand with Ukraine' Bundle last month, which include Back 4 Blood, Satisfactory, Metro Exodus, Sunset Overdrive and 80+ other games. AAA games are like snacks on PC but are the main course on consoles.
 
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