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My game has only one life, and the aim is to stay alive as long as possible to get as many points as possible (it's an endless runner).

Using Google Analytics I found that players are staying alive for an average of 17 seconds. I could easily increase or decrease this by manipulating acceleration or starting speed. The question is, should I change it at all? Is there any research or general ideas on the best playing time for a game like this? I would also like to know about any research about how long an ideal mobile game session should last.

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Why not survey some people and find out? Ideally this would be done in the play testing phase before the game is released. –  Byte56 Nov 3 '13 at 17:32
    
It's called playtesting. Let your friends/family play your games and then some and deduct from the results and feedback what needs to be changed. –  Sidar Nov 3 '13 at 17:32
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Using friends and family for play testing isn't the best idea. You tend to get biased results from people that want you to do well or don't want to hurt your feelings. Human emotions, meh. Try using random strangers or colleges or some non biased source. –  TheNickmaster21 Nov 3 '13 at 20:03
    
An average is always biased by isulated extreme-values. When you are interested in the game experience of a normal player, don't rely on the average, rely on the median. There are also other, more advanced statistical tools which give you a more reliable picture than just the average. –  Philipp Nov 19 '13 at 11:57
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1 Answer

17 seconds most probably will be frustrating for your players.

The proper way to do things would be to do playtests - ask some strangers to play the game for a few minutes while you watch. Also, play the game yourself! What is YOUR average life time in your game?

It is important to playtest with unbiased people - your friends or family might say they like the game even if its terrible.

You should make notes. Does the player know how to interact with the game? Does he make mistakes? What makes him frustrated? What does he seem to enjoy?

Only after doing your own observations you may ask the player for an opinion, but it usually wont be as useful as your own observations. You as a game designer should have a better understanding of how games work and utilise a broader vocabulary of game related terms to verbalise the design problems your players encounter.

There is no single mobile game session time. Some people will play it at for three minutes, waiting for a bus, others will play for half an hour while commuting. The game should be designed with a specific playtime in mind, this should not be left out. The game should be designed to trigger some emotions and have a conclusion in the specified playtime. You cant do that in 17 seconds. Your game probably gets too hard to fast, making people quit after the first or second try.

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