How much does framerate matter?

Recently we've been asking ourselves some hard questions:
  • What is it that we want to focus on?
  • What's most important to us?
  • What do we want to make?
And the answer is simple:
We want to give you guys, our fans and players, the best looking games you can buy on a console.
You may have already seen Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time (available in US stores now!)
I'm really proud of what our art and production teams accomplished in this game. It's a great looking game, a ton of fun to play and is 60fps.
And it's that last point that I want to talk about today. One of the long-standing sacred cows here at Insomniac is framerate. We’ve long viewed a solid framerate as both a sign of a quality product and professionalism as developers. It’s always been point of pride in our work and considered an extremely serious part of our development process.
However, during development, there are hard choices to be made between higher quality graphics and framerate. And we want to make the right choices that reflect our commitment to providing you with the best looking games out there. To that end, our community team did some research into the question of framerate. The results perhaps confirmed what I’ve known for a long time, but found it difficult to accept without evidence. They found that:
  • A higher framerate does not significantly affect sales of a game.
  • A higher framerate does not significantly affect the reviews of a game.
And in particular they found that there was a clear correlation between graphics scores in reviews (where they are provided) and the final scores. And they found no such correlation between framerate and the graphics scores nor the final scores. As an interesting side-note, our team also found no direct correlation between gameplay scores and final scores, however it does appear that gameplay scores are also influenced by graphics scores. i.e. Better looking games appear to be more “fun” to reviewers, in general.
After reviewing our internal research, I decided to take this question to the public. I wanted to see what the players themselves thought of this question. Here are the results of that poll
The first thing I noted in reviewing these results was that 16% of the respondents said they wouldn’t buy a non 60fps game. Now, considering the top selling games and the market research, I take that to mean one of two things:
  • People are big fat liars. Sales numbers clearly contradict this pattern. Or,
  • The group responding to this poll in the first place was a self-selected group of people with an interest in framerate in the first place. Which may also explain why that last group is represented by such a small response rate in the poll results.
Based on the research, the informal polling and various conversations with fans and other game buyers, I’ve come to the following conclusions: 
  • Framerate is important, but not critically so. When there is a clear choice between framerate and improved graphics, graphics should win. The correlation with review scores is clear.
  • There is virtually no advantage in sales or reviews of a 60 fps game versus a 30 fps game.
  • Only a minority of players notice framerate as a significant issue of any kind.
  • Framerate should be as consistent as possible and should never interfere with the game. However, a drop in framerate is interestingly seen by some players as a reward for creating or forcing a complex setup in which a lot of things must happen on the screen at once. As in, “Damn! Did you see that? That was crazy!”
  • A solid framerate is still a sign of professional, well-made product. When there is a trade-off for framerate, it needs to be clearly worth it. i.e. It must introduce clear improvements on what the player sees, and never used as an excuse to not optimize the game or art.
What does all of this mean, really?
It means that framerate is still important to us here at Insomniac, but it’s not on the same pedestal it was before. And that Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time will probably be Insomniac’s last 60fps game.
PS (Update 30 October 2009)
dixee wrote:
Plus, there are other advantages. You can load things twice as fast (assuming it's being streamed during gameplay) and calculate twice as many collisions. Frame rate involves more than just drawing methods, unless I'm drastically mistaken. Am I?
You really can't load things any faster regardless of your framerate. The speed (seek and throughput rate) of loading is limited by device you're loading from (e.g. the Bluray). But yes, a lower framerate does give you "extra" time to do other operations as well, outside of rendering. Collision, as you mentioned, is an example.
Rhez Darkhoof wrote:
Framerate is nice but gameplay and graphics probably have more effect on the overall experience. I mean how high can we really get the framerate before the human eye can't distinguish the difference.?
The human eye and brain are seriously sophisticated equipment. It's certainly possible to distinguish very high framerates. Much higher, in fact, than 60fps. But the question is more about how important is it to most players (and reviewers) when when offered the choice against "better graphics" of some kind. We want to give players better graphics, because ultimately that's what so many are asking for.
Arelius wrote:
Mike, I'd like to make a few strong counter points. First of all, regarding your Poll, and the fact that 16% said they wouldn't buy a non 60 FPS game. Keep in mind there were no other "I prefer a 60 FPS game" option, so while the exact text may have said "60 FPS or I won't buy" it got people saying "I prefer 60 FPS and it influences my purchases."
So, yeah. I should have clarified the point. That poll was extremely informal and didn't play a significant part in the decision process. It was more a point of interest. However, we can see through sales data what people are saying when they speak with their hard-earned money. And we simply don't see any significant correlation between framerate and what people want to buy.
But I don't want to dismiss the importance of framerate, either. As I said, it is still important to us. We certainly understand how framerate can affect the game experience. And we definitely have people here that prefer 60fps as well. But when it comes right down to it, when we have to make a choice, that choice has to be made based on what we think you guys will like better. And what you'd actually prefer to buy, in general. It's not a perfect system.
mgibson wrote:
That graph of overall scores and graphics scores makes no sense. The horizontal axis is meaningless.
Just to be clear, what I wrote was definitely not about the details of our research. There is clearly a lot of information that I didn't present. Nor did I present it in a way that could allow for any kind of rigorous analysis. I'm more speaking about what conclusions we've drawn and why we think it's interesting. 
The horizontal axis represents the individual games. The vertices are the only things that have any meaning. The lines drawn between them are not meaningful data themselves, but do help visualize the pattern for an informal view.
MiZa wrote:
I know, my words are wasted though as soon as I read your mission statement. If it reads "We want to give you guys, our fans and players, the best looking games you can buy on a console" instead of "We want to give you guys, our fans and players, the best games you can buy on a console" then there is no hope.

That's a good point, MiZa. And we do want to provide you the best games you can buy on a console. Though here, I'm speaking specifically about engine (and art) choices, and ultimately this question is fairly narrowly focused on the A/V experience.
superdynamite wrote:
Let me start off by saying that frame rate plays a tremendous part in the gameplay of a "Next-Gen" videogame. The statement that was made by Insomniac, sighting "no correlation between 60 fps benchmark to yield higher retail sales" is complete and utter nonsense,
I appreciate your view here, superdynamite. But I'm going to stick by our research. Certainly you can look at many current games that run at 30 fps and ask if their sales have been impacted by not being 60 fps. Additionally, I'd be surprised if you could find a single review (in similar genres of games that we work on) that penalized a game for not being 60 fps.
Thanks so much for all of your heartfelt feedback everyone! And keep in mind that I'm certainly not saying 60 fps has no value or that framerate isn't important. It's simply about focusing on what we think is most important and devoting resources to that. So that when you pick up our games, you know you're going to get an awesome graphical experience. Along with great fun.
  • awesome_farts

    Frame rate over graphics!
    Smooth motion is key.
    Not impressed by this design choice. But atleast graphics improved.

  • I beg to differ. Frame rate can have a lot to do with the visual experience of the game. Depending on the look you’re going for, you can wind up achieving the exact opposite of what you want with the wrong choice of frame rate.

    Frame rate shouldn’t be looked only for the purpose of performance but, also for the sake of overall design. A “movie-like” experience, for example, will be better achieved in 30 fps while a 60 fps will give more of the impression you’re actually doing something in real-time.

    It’s the same difference you get when you watch a movie versus a TV show. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The movie actually looks different than the TV show. It’s because of frame rate. TV Shows tend to be shot at 29.97 fps or higher while the standard for movies is 24 fps.

    What tends to look more professional to people? Movies.

    So, again…frame rate is important. But, I would never go so far to put it over the visuals every single time. I’ve played plenty games myself at 30 fps that may have not had the same feel were it at 60 fps instead and vice versa.


    This makes it sound like money is way more important to you than the games themselves. The masses aren’t that picky about framerate because they simply don’t know about it. I’ve been a fan of the R&C games since the start and a lot of that had to do with how smooth the gameplay was. Framerate is more important than graphics and into the nexus is a fine example of that. I couldn’t stand that game for more than 20 minutes because the gameplay felt so bad coming from the older R&C games. Probably won’t be picking up the PS4 R&C after all.

  • Justin (~≧▽≦)~

    The moment they realise their highest rated game ever was a 60fps game…

  • Brandon Collins

    The only reason you guys have to even deal with this debate is because current console hardware is just not up to par with the technology available. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have to make sacrifices between graphics and frame rates because they’re underpowered. In a vast, growing graphical industry with every game developer trying to keep up, it’s just not plausible to have both aspects in a $500 machine. And especially when you develop a game for platforms that don’t allow graphical customization (so being able to change shadow quality, shading quality, texture quality, etc. in order to sacrifice graphics for frame rates and vice versa), no one’s going to be happy. A good PC basically fixes all of those problems, but even then, if we’re to be honest, a PC for the same price IS a better performer, but it’s not so much better that it will completely fix the problem. A PC for around $700+ is where games won’t have to make that compromise to the extent it’s at now with current consoles. Basically every PC game has customizable graphics and I don’t know why console games have never usually never implemented it. No, they lock it at a certain graphical quality and frame rate and expect everyone to just be okay with it. It just doesn’t work like that anymore because of how demanding games are getting and how much more gamers are preferring one choice or the other. Maybe if you guys started implementing graphical customization in your games, this wouldn’t be a problem and gamers could make their OWN choices. Or, you know, ditch the PotatoStation and start developing for PC…

    • David Romao

      Ditching the potatoStation isn’t possible because R&C belong to sony.. unfortunately
      I can’t imagine how good would be a ratchet game made for PC

      • Brandon Collins

        It would be Ratchet and Clank on a PC? I mean, you can hook up a PS2/PS3 controller to the PC if the oh-so-glorious mouse and keyboard don’t suit your R&C needs. 😛

        But yeah, I kind of figured the franchise belonged to Sony. How else will they get developers to create games for their potato other than buying out entire franchises, alienating other platforms?


      I think the consoles should have a lower graphics 60FPS / higher graphics 30FPS option like you mention. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be possible, the consoles are pretty much budget gaming PCs. Many people jumped over to PC gaming between last console gen and this console gen and it’s really hard to go back to 30FPS when you’re used to 60 or higher.

  • Jeremy Venegas

    “We’ve long viewed a solid framerate as both a sign of a quality product and professionalism as developers… And that Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time willprobably be Insomniac’s last 60fps game.”


  • a great gameplay allways comes first.. with rock solid 60fps games are not only plays better but feels better..

    and no.. whenever i see a framedrop.. i think… “rushed f… game”


    Just because framerate isn’t mentioned in reviews doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. Stop making excuses. Platformers do not play good at 30fps.
    There’s a good reason why PC multiplats (if the review is fair) gets a higher score.

    • Soushi

      Also worth mentioning, that console gamers don’t have a choice in this matter: they are forced to play the game with framerate, that was decided by developer, without any options to raise it.

      If there were a game, that was released with 60 FPS on one console and 30 on another you’d see a noticeable difference in sales/scores between the two (assuming most gamers have both consoles and assuming the press would review both versions back to back).

  • CJ Pony

    One final screw you for ruining such a magnificent game with a shitty sub-par framerate.

  • ethanicus

    I can’t be the only person who gets sick when things are in 60fps.

    • Chris D

      That more likely has to do with FOV

  • disqus_bJmMo9hhNJ

    Err not sure what is going on in these comments.

    I have stuck with consoles all my life and played all the Ratchet & Clank games. Frame rate dose not matter to me, as far as my preference goes, I would prefer it stay at a stable 30 or whatever the target frame rate is but it otherwise really doesn’t effect my gameplay in a significant way.

    Many of the people in this thread are quite obviously pro-PC and are quite aggressively pushing an agenda for it while downplaying the role of consoles and their functions and the fact that RC was probably made possible because of them in the very first place. That is fine they are entitled to their option but Insomniac, your core consumers are simply going to speak with their purchases.

    We’ve seen gameplay footage and it looks brilliant and we can’t wait to play it!

  • Chris D

    I’m not really a purchaser of your games anyways, but not doing a 60fps game because you can make a game look “more fun” for reviewers, really doesn’t sit well with me. If the hardware can’t handle your vision, don’t release on that hardware, or optimize your code better. Ultimately, it comes down to you, but if I had a say in this matter, i would choose 60fps hands down, every time.

    • Dick

      Ok. Lets bring it down to the science that makes games possible in the first place. Your eyes only need 25 fps to have some sort of immersive gaming experience. Secondly, arguing that 60 FPS is better is like saying playing Mario Brothers on a NFL Stadium Sized Screen is better. Now do the math, if you need a steady 60 FPS your eye’s are doing 2.4 Times the work necessary to be entertained. Basically your body is doing more work to stay proactive than is necessary to enjoy the visual experience. So like I say in all my post, the future is not about FPS or Hertz. Its about potential energy, and when a developer uses too much resources it over burdens your device and you. So i beg to differ that 60 FPS is better than 30 FPS, because I would most definitely need less energy to maintain a rhythem while being entertained (Electronic Art’s Live Off of Rhythm and Flow. Hertz, Signal, Electricity, Process, Architecture ) And if we were playing a First Person Shooter, I doubt your eye’s are fast enough to catch me picking you off. Thread Killed.

      • Sean Castillo

        You’re just joking, right derpalong6? 25fps looks and feels terrible. There’s a reason competitive games (fighting games, CS:GO, etc.) are all played at high frame rates.

      • Sean Castillo

        Your comparison with Mario doesn’t make any sense either. You’re just spouting pseudo-scientific nonsense.

  • Dick

    Ok. Lets bring it down to the science that makes games possible in the first place. Your eyes only need 25 fps to have some sort of immersive gaming experience. Secondly, arguing that 60 FPS is better is like saying playing Mario Brothers on a NFL Stadium Sized Screen is better. Now do the math, if you need a steady 60 FPS your eye’s are doing 2.4 Times the work necessary to be entertained. Basically your body is doing more work to stay proactive than is necessary to enjoy the visual experience. So like I say in all my post, the future is not about FPS or Hertz. Its about potential energy, and when a developer uses too much resources it over burdens your device and you. So i beg to differ that 60 FPS is better than 30 FPS, because I would use less energy to maintain a rhythm while being entertained. And if we were playing a First Person Shooter, I doubt your eye’s are fast enough to catch me picking you off. Thread Killed.

  • Troy Tarling

    I just want you guys to make the kinds of insta-classics you used to make. Spyro and Ratchet games had extremely detailed character movement and facial expressions for their respective console eras. Yet as the Ratchet games have gone on, the tendency for exaggerated expressions (and character development in general) has dropped to almost nothing. Now with this game we reach the point where characters stand blankly in place, not even making eye contact, and say their lines.

    Remember in the original R&C, how furious Ratchet looked when he found out Drek was targeting Veldin? A single expression showed so much!

  • I find it rather disappointing that you don’t discuss the primary reason that 60 FPS is preferable to 30 FPS: more responsive controls. Visual quality is certainly important, but in a game it often (and correctly) comes second to playability.

    That’s not to say a 30 FPS game can’t feel great to play, either, but whether 60 FPS might have a significantly better depends a lot on the type of game, the programming, and so on.

  • What’s up with that graph? Useless lines? Citations needed? And was the poll really needed to be skewed like that and couldn’t just say, “Really important” to “Not at all”? This is why you don’t let your intern write your company’s articles for you.

  • Andrey

    So, what’s next? “Stunning” visuals at 4k and solid 15 fps? Look at that graphical fidelity, just do not press any buttons because you will have panning blurring piece of s&*t on your screen! But look how beautiful it is when it’s static!

    I’m a long-time fan of RC and had all the game (including the last one for PS4) and cannot even express how painful it was to try to play at 30 fps (yes, I’m hypersensitive to the frame rate and yes, I can see the difference easily between 30 and 60 fps). Keep my fingers crossed that Insomniac will add 60 fps capability when new PS 4.5/Neo will be released. In the meantime put the game on my shelf.

    Really, guys, don’t build Mercedes with square wheels…

  • TylerDurden

    I think everyone understands that framerate over graphic fidelity is purely profit based. Higher framerate and lower graphics mean lower quality images for marketing and advertising purposes, where as increased framerate and lower quality visuals make for a tougher sell when the whole industry and every casual gamer out there are image orientated over gameplay/mechanics, etc.

    What I don’t understand is this. No game, that I am aware of restricts any player to not being able to make some choice in the way they play. Ideally games are released on as many systems as possible, allowing a console player or PC gamer to enjoy the game on their respective set up. Perfect. When playing a game we are allowed to customise the keys, etc, and in some cases choose different types of controllers. Again, perfect.

    The list goes on, however there’s one major difference in the way a PC gamer is treated, and a console gamer and that’s in the options available to adjust a game, it’s graphics to suit the user. Sure, everyone understands why this is essential within the PC environment, but it allows one very essential choice; that of higher quality visuals or a faster framerate.

    Why are console users not given similar choices. I don’t think any console needs or perhaps would even care for the multitude of options available, but a simple choice of 30 frames a second or 60 would actually be serving the customer, demonstrating a genuine care for customer satisfaction over simply using them as profit increasers.

    We are customers, clients, and while we’re large in number and, let’s be honest, either completely ignored (outside of being a sold unit) or mostly don’t care to attempt to make contact with developers or publishers, mostly, knowing that any individual opinion is completely insignificant to such businesses.

    All I would love to see, at the very, very minimum is a choice between ‘marketing quality’ visuals/framerate, and a 60 frames a second option. Options way beyond these are available within the exact same games when they’re available on PC. And I’m pretty sure PC gamers given the choice choose a decent framerate over a choppy one every time.

    If choice isn’t appreciated by customers, then I can only assume it’s simply a strange coincidence that RPGs are popular, that many first-person games are now incorporating RPG type customisation, that racing games have and always will give a choice of views, and Rockstar were being self-indulgent allowing a first-person view in a series they have always produced in third-person. In fact, if we’re simply happy with another persons choice why do racing games bother to have more than one car, why does a shooter bother giving the option of various weapons. Why bother allowing gamers to customise a character, or in-game equipment. What do we know? Developers know best, and we wouldn’t buy fewer games if player choice were removed! Maybe every PC gamer is genuinely annoyed that they have the choice to make changes to the visuals of their games. As for allowing gamers to adjust keys and buttons to suit their needs is clearly a waste of time as no gamer is really that individual.

    If you want to conduct genuine research perhaps look into whether gamers actually care for choice. Don’t tailor the research to suit the companies profit, and actually consider the customers love of choice and individuality. This article is actually embarrassing and near disgraceful for it’s bias and self serving purpose!