Update: Some fine readers have highlighted an intelligent reasoning for the fall in player percentages for Tales from the Borderlands, especially the fall from Ep1 to Ep2. They are correct in that the first episode was given out for free on PSN to all users and that explains why many must have played the first episode and decided not to buy the season pass which contains Episode 2-5.
I am glad readers have begun making connections: the consequence of promotional events on PSN trophies. Guess we are onto something here, perhaps a School of Trophy study.
Video Games as a hobby present us with a dilemma. It is not just a decision of how to play a game, but also ‘what’ to play.
The act of playing videogames comes so naturally in this age of convenience that we often forget the actions we take while ‘approaching’ the games themselves. Like you might recall the decision at the end of the Mass Effect Trilogy or The Walking Dead, but do you recall what was the first Dark Souls covenant you joined? You got a trophy for it, do you remember? Or which puzzle gave you such a hard time that you never went back to Portal 2? Or on which sequence of last year’s Assassin’s Creed did you lose interest; and you moved onto the next game, the next big open-world RPG that you might finish 2 chapters of and forget about as a new Platinum game strikes your fancy.
These are not the decisions that a game wants you to take (kill or no kill), but a decision that you take when approaching your catalogue of games .To be fair, such decisions are quiet inconsequential to an individual like you and me and are worth not remembering. But unintentionally these decisions are documented in our gaming machines and the statistics they reflect are quiet telling of our video-gaming habits.
The PlayStation 4, for instance does a lot of things really well, one of them are the improved trophies. The option of trophy rarity (common, rare, ultra-rare with them sweet percentages) is quiet something when gauging how a certain game is approached. It can show how certain games discourage or promote progress, how players might hit roadblocks at certain junctures and how successive games in a series evolve. For part one of such an analysis click here.
Remember! The data taken from the PlayStation Network denotes the machines that have had their trophies synced online. Given how day-one patches and bug fixes are the norm, the data can be considered to be largely representative of a considerable player-base. However, the information in this article is subject to change as more people play these games over time and the percentages and rarities dwindle.
Spoilers: May contain mild spoilers for: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Alien Isolation, Batman Arkham Knight, Bloodborne, Dying Light, Just Cause 3, Mad Max, SOMA, Tales from the Borderlands, Transistor, Unfinished Swan, The Walking Dead S1 and S2.
Unlike last time - where I had analysed trophies using several distinct themes under heads like romance, difficulty, karma decisions and class selection – this time I will take a rather simplified approach of selecting a game and observing its trophies to establish a pattern.
The Walking Dead Season 1
Ah Telltale Games! Your prowess at assembly line-ing episodic games is just awe-inspiring. In times when developers are delaying games left, right and centre, you’ve got it good. It refreshing almost: discovering a new episode in one of your many series’ stealthily onto our gaming machines.
Try this on for size: Telltale have released 6 finished games in the time that it took Naughty Dog to go from Uncharted 3 to Uncharted 4, having released just The Last of Us in between (April 2012-January 2016). But to give the devil his due, making a game is not enough - as trophies would have us believe – finishing them and experiencing what the developers have created is part and parcel of what a game is about. And Telltale games don’t seem to have a great track record at that.
Take The Walking Dead Season 1 for instance, each episode offers 8 trophies (7 trophies per chapter and 1 for finishing the episode).
As evidenced in the picture above, In Episode 1’s chapter 1 through 4, the game lost over 8 percent of its players. That is not necessarily the game’s fault, but generally a Telltale episode lasts over 2 hours and chapters 1 through 4 is just the first hour. Losing players in the first hour is not a great sign for any game, much less an episodic one. This trend continues…
Of the 93.7% players who began episode 1 only 72.7% finished it. Furthermore, only 68.2% of those 72.7% finished chapter 1 of episode 2.
And it continues… Only 47.2% (around half of those who finished chapter 1 of ep1) have seen the end to The Walking Dead. To be fair, The Walking Dead was very much an experimental game of its time, a time when episodic games had a lot to prove. You would think that Season 2 would fare better.
The Walking Dead Season 2
You wouldn’t be right.
While 65.8% of the players earned ‘River Runs Cold’ the first trophy of S2, awarded for completing chapter 1 of episode 1, just 46.6% actually finished Ep1: All That Remains. The percentages don’t fare much well episode-to-episode.
to a point where just 24.2% of the players finish the season, a significant drop from Ep1 Chapter 1’s 65.8%.
Tales from the Borderlands
You may be thinking: another Telltale series! But Tales from the Borderlands is so commendable in its freshness, so much brimming with personality and yet so criminally dismissed that it needs our attention, or rather its trophies need our attention.
The fall in players (above) from chapter 1 to 2 is quiet something, an abrupt 15% difference can’t just be attributed to players losing interest. My guess is players bought a ‘Borderlands’ game expecting a shooter, maybe this wasn’t what they were expecting. This might explain why the initial drops are so harsh i.e. 15% and 6%, But as the episode progresses the percentages don’t drop as significantly:
What breaks my heart is the fall in players for the next episode:
I know from experience that Telltale games always get better with each episode and the fact that only 24.4% - when 42.9% finished ep1 - gave ep2 a try.
Thankfully, of the players who finished ep2 many were interested in finishing the series it seems, as the drop between the episodes is a mere 2%.
The same was true for successive episodes:
Not a lot of drop-outs, a good sign indeed.
Yet! Not a lot of players ended up finishing the game (15.8%) when compared to the number that started ep2 for instance, 24.5%.
To put things into perspective here is a snazzy infographic for you to gaze upon:
A quick look at the graph would suggest that Telltale seems to be having a hard time retaining players like it did with Season 1 of The Walking Dead. Makes you wonder if they have lost their touch.
But, I am of the opinion that The Walking Dead Season 2 and Tales from the Borderlands are both superior games in most respects to Season 1 of The Walking Dead. So it must be some larger (maybe abstract) component that factors into players’ motivation when approaching Telltale’s episodic games.
Surely the percentages of these relatively newer games will rise with time and maybe we will see some parity. Nonetheless, this raises an important question: Is the episodic nature of Telltale’s games hurting more than helping?
Sometimes you may not feel like playing a game, some other times the game may feel like playing you…
Not the easiest of games, to say the least, Bloodborne was expected to give players nightmares (literal and in-game). It makes for an interesting study to ascertain which Bloodborne boss forced most players into submission.
From the bosses required to progress the ‘main’ quest, a great bunch of players music-boxed Father Gascoigne (63.1%). But it is after Gascoigne that the percentages wane. Unsurprisingly though, as it is after this fight that hunters venture into Oedon Chapel, a sort of hub that splits into three (possibly four) different locations, some offering optional boss fights like the Blood-starved Beast, Darkbeast Paarl and the Witch of Hemwick. Resultantly, just 50.3% of the players numb-misted Vicar Amelia.
After the Vicar however the percentages stabilize, as 44.6% players terminated the Shadows of Yharnam’s jolly cooperation, 42.1% conquered Rom despite being one-shot by those tiny spiders (ARRRRGGGHHH!). Fast-forward a few battles and 32.1% players slew the nightmare by lulling Mergo’s Wet Nurse to eternal sleep.
Such a completion rate is not bad at all, though just half of the players who killed Gascoigne, seem to have finished the game, yet the numbers are commendable when compared to Telltale’s.
Bloodborne’s endings and the trophies linked to them are quiet interesting to me as well. Bloodborne has four endings (three for the main quest, one related to the Chalice Dungeons) each with a golden trophy for a reward.
My first playthrough unlocked the ‘Yharnam Sunrise’ ending wherein I submitted to Gehrman, as an obedient pupil that I was.
But I was quiet surprised that it was the least popular of the three choices.
The second ending ‘Honouring Wishes’ was easy enough to get: denying Gehrman submission leads to a final showdown with the First Hunter and that’s it. But it’s the third trophy that piques my interest the most. Notice how it is the most popular of the three (‘Childhood’s Beginning’ 18.8%). Now that ending is quite a challenge. One could easily be locked out of this ending as it required three Umbilical cord pieces from a total of four, only two of which are a definite item in a single playthrough and the other two are linked to character storylines and can be easily missed. So what does this tell us about Bloodborne?
Curiously enough it hints at the robust community that the Souls games have come to be known for. By their very nature Souls games are about discovery and the rewards for the bravest. For some, sharing the secrets of Yharnam is more satisfying that the actual act of finding them. And Internet’s made it possible for Souls enthusiasts to post their wondrous finds on reddit and wikis, thus leading to a gaming experience that transcends the game itself. Soon enough videos on how to find all four umbilical cords were making rounds, alongside guides on how to get all the endings and lore videos that piece together what each ending denotes.
The fourth and the rarest of the ending trophies is ‘Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen’, accessed via the Great Pthumeru Ihyll Chalice. I like to think of it as an easter egg of a fight, as we are faced with the Queen of the Old Labyrinth that seemed quiet harmless the few times we encountered her in the main quest, but its only after some arduous dungeoneering that her menacing tendencies are revealed.
Here is an example demonstrating the irresistible game-buying habits that I am sure is practiced by many of my readers: of buying a game, getting past the title screen but never really finishing the prologue. We all have those games, like those Souls players who never unlocked the trophy awarded for dying ‘once’. We know they exist only because of their abandonment of the game mid-prologue, not because they got gud without even dying by the game.
So when 96.5% players killed their first infected, the remainder to the one hundred percent hint at such dynamics at work. I hope the 3.5% feel buyer’s remorse, having bought Dying Light and not played it since: firstly it’s a damn fine game and secondly its enhanced edition is on the horizon and is looking quiet game-changing.
Furthermore, it’s a shame how not a lot of people (39.7% trophy holders) seem to have tried Dying Light co-op as it is probably the best implementation of co-op in a story mode in a long time.
The success of Rocket League is well-documented, even on PlayStation Network (PSN)! The fun-factor to this (big) little game is so entrenched that its diverse modes have all seen their fair share of audience as evidenced by the trophies below:
A look at the trophies shows how even the most time-consuming trophies (to drive a certain distance, unlocking in-game decorations) are quiet common.
But despite such high numbers, I am sure many of you find a friend here or commenters there pointing at: how it is simple enough to pick up and play Rocket League but they don’t seem to be getting any better at it. Well next time someone comes your way carping at the obtuse learning curve, show them this exhibit:
Just 11.4% players seem to have completed the Practice Drill. How can you expect better play, sans practice? Practice makes perfect after all.
Just Cause 3
This game and the few that follow have a theme surrounding them: player approach to side missions and collectibles.
Just Cause 3’s side missions were such a let-down, with no real rhyme or reason for any of them and they offered nothing that you weren’t doing in the base game, pretty standard fare: gliding, driving, destructing. Even the rather terrible decision to lock character upgrades behind playing/perfecting these challenging couldn’t motivate players into playing them as indicated by the trophy ‘A Real Gear-Getter’.
Then there were the collectibles/interactables that were just time-consuming map-fillers without much motivation to boot. Just Cause 3 wants us to ‘pay respects’ by pressing X a gazillion times yet we still chide the poor COD: Advanced Warfare. None of these interactables were interesting or enticing, resulting into their related trophies being ultra rare on the network.
Moving onto main story stuff, the percentage drops above are quiet alarming. Usually when I find percentages shedding with each successive story chapters in a game, I credit it to the players’ tendency to get distracted by side quests or emergent gameplay threads (for instance Skyrim’s dragons or grinding for better gear).
Now we just saw how Just Cause 3 isn’t getting any love on the side missions/collect-athon front, it makes me wonder: what is the game doing wrong.
I think I know.
You see Just Cause 3 likes to lock story missions behind liberation of provinces throughout the map. There are three instances where you are supposed to liberate a certain number of provinces before beginning a story mission. Personally I believe the liberations are quiet enjoyable, I will go so far as to claim they were my favorite part of the game. But the PSN percentages don’t agree with what I like. It is at these points - when the players are required to liberate provinces - that we see most players ditch the game.
Avalanche Studios approached Mad Max similarly.
The conceit of taking-over strongholds across the map sounds thematically appropriate for settings such as wastelands (Mad Max) and oppressive regimes (Just Cause 3). But unintentionally, it becomes a case where: side activities drag down the progress on the main stories of these games.
A game that handles side missions superbly is what we will discuss next, testaments of which are its PSN trophies.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Almost all of the side mission trophies in Arkham Knight are either common or rare and all have seen many a players attempting them to completion. Be it the Riddler Trials (Nine Lives, 35.8%)
Or Azrael’s Heir to the Cowl (Angel in the Dark, 34.5%)
Or Two Face’s Heist challenges (Jekyll & Hyde, 47.8%)
Each of Arkham Knight’s side missions offered clarity of objective, a distinct villain to fend off and a scheme to uncover. Maybe it’s the collect-athon nature of most side activities that usually discourage players from investing time into them. Another – rather great little game – that sheds some light on the same is Grow Home.
Though the completion rate of the ‘campaign quest’ was criminally low, it was nowhere as low as the trophies that were essentially time-sinks and required either collecting or interacting.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
The uproar over the exclusion of the campaign in the last gen versions of COD: BLOPS3 might suggest that the game would atleast witness a great many players finishing the sought-after campaign on next gen (PS4).
Alas! The results are less than satisfactory and rightfully so as it was far from a good campaign and the second half was just too random and haphazard.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Street Fighter X Tekken was not a stellar fighting game. It was far from the genius of Street Fighter 4, a lop-sided crossover that bit more than it could chew. Going tag team was one thing but it introduced the infamous gems which only contributed to the imbalance. The result was a network of indicatrices that was more ‘mess’ than ‘depth’. Such imbalance were also seen in the trophies, some features attaining more usage, some being forgotten altogether as alluded to by most trophies being ultra rare.
Among all the mishmash was ‘Pandora mode’ a state that was poised as the game-changer that could turn tables on any battle. Alas it was none of those things. So much so that it was almost a joke for a player to go into Pandora mode at all. Unsurprisingly, the trophies for executing the mode 50 times and winning 30 matches while in the mode are some of the ultra rarest trophies on PSN.
Now when the forthcoming Street Fighter V’s V-skills and V-triggers look so central to the game’s DNA, it makes you wonder: Has Capcom learnt from the botched Pandora Mode and created something more practical and strategic? It won’t be long before we find out, now with SFV replacing USF4 at EVO 2016, end of an era, huh!
As food for thought, I will leave you with some rather excellent games with abysmal campaign finish percentages when compared to the number of players who started playing them.
Assassins Creed Syndicate
That drop from Sequence 3 to 4 though!
It is highly unfortunate that just 18.5% players (of 24.3% who finished the campaign) played through the World War 1 simulation level. It was a delight to catch up on the over-arching Juno-Sage plot in this concise summarization of the series.
More people shot horses (19.5%) than played the simulation, what monsters…
Horror games generally don’t seem too successful at reeling in their audience for the long haul. Who wants to feel on the edge for the entire duration of an 8 hour game, for example. Thus horror games are a difficult genre to execute. Even some well-made games like Alien Isolation experience player drop-out as seen from the trophy data.
The finish percentage (eighteenth mission) when compared to the first mission’s completion is horrifying (!) yet not alien to video games.
Though better than Alien Isolation, SOMA’s excellent story could only take it so far. With a completion percentage of 30.3% it beats most AAA games on here, but that is still a third of the total buyers on PSN.
Some experimental games also see this trend applying to them. Some games like Unfinished Swan are well worth a playthrough, yet may prove a little obtuse for some audiences. I remember being stuck in Chapter two (Unfinished Empire) trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.
Eventually I did finish it though.
Here I am just bragging about that Ultra Rare: Minimalist trophy, I made myself proud.
That’s all for this edition. Do let me know which trophies caught your eye and what inferences did you derive from these arbitrary percentages. Do you divulge in trophy-hunting? Was this write-up any good? Shout at me in the comments. Until next time.