Why Venba is so short — and confidently so

“We did everything we wanted to with Venba,” Visai Games designer Abhi told Polygon. “Even if the team was given an additional budget to make more Venba content, I’m not sure if we would necessarily want to make more levels as we are really happy with the story we have told.”

Venba, a narrative cooking game that tells the story of an Indian Canadian family, is a short game — under two hours. Its length is a strong point; there’s a concise throughline that lets the emotional core really hit. There are plenty of games that are dozens of hours longer and have much less of an impact, and yet, there’s also a dialogue around short games — is the value there?

Most of the time, the answer is yes, and that’s doubly true in Venba’s case.

“A game’s price, like its story, mechanics and everything else is subject to a lot of factors and most importantly changes throughout development,” Abhi said in an email interview with Polygon. “For Venba, the game has grown and changed significantly every year. As we got access to more funding, we put all of it back into the game to deliver as high quality of an experience as possible. A good example is the music in Venba which is recorded with live music, real instruments and even famous Tamil artists around the world. These things wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t decide to spend more on Venba. But of course, a bigger budget has to reflect in the price eventually.”

Neha Patel, Venba’s sound designer, wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter), that the game was made ethically, with contract workers and employees “paid in full at industry rates.”

Steam rice cakes, called idlis, in a box with a sauce. Image: Visai Games

Some developers have expressed concern in the past over Valve’s refund policy on Steam with regard to game length. The refund policy offers money back to anyone who’s played less than two hours of a game within a two-week timeframe, regardless of the game’s length. It came up with Before Your Eyes, a short BAFTA-winning video game; its lead developer, Bela Messex, highlighted the practice on social media, sharing a positive review of the game that showed the reviewer had refunded it on Steam. It’s hard to say how often this is happening, but developers have been concerned over the practice, according to PC Gamer.

Abhi said it’s definitely a concern, but perhaps not as big of a concern as it may seem.

This is definitely still a concern among game developers who are making short games but I do feel that this issue is a bit over hyped! There was another game developer who has released an acclaimed short game and they said they were worried about the refunds but found that surprisingly their refund rate was within normal rates for Steam games.

For Venba, we’re actually lower than the average window for return rates on steam. Venba’s length did give me pause at times but it was hard for me to imagine a player who’s interested in Venba, plays and resonates with it, and refunds it just because it’s within the window. There might be some players who abuse the refund system to return it in time, but many of them wouldn’t have bought Venba in the first place if they knew they couldn’t return it. So I don’t really count those as lost sales!

The response to Venba is overwhelming positive, both on Steam and in critical reviews. It’s also another bit of proof that value in video games doesn’t necessarily come from length. Like a movie, which usually clocks in around two hours, the value comes from the quality of the experience — and Venba’s experience is incredible.